Articles By Mitch Light
With the 15th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.
Here are the Top Orange Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:
5. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia, 2011
West Virginia set a bowl record by scoring 70 points thanks in large part to a near-perfect night from Smith. The sophomore quarterback completed 32-of-43 passes for 407 yards with six touchdowns (a bowl record) and no interceptions. Smith, who also ran for a score, connected with Tavon Austin on four of his six touchdown passes in the Mountaineers’ 70–33 victory.
4. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa, 2009
Clayborn was sensational for an Iowa defense that shut down Georgia Tech’s feared option attack in the Hawkeyes’ 24–14 win. Clayborn recorded 11 tackles, including two sacks, as Iowa held the Yellow Jackets to a season-low 175 yards, almost 270 below their season average.
3. Tom Brady, QB, Michigan, 2000
Michigan outdueled Alabama, 35–34 in overtime, in a matchup between two of the most storied programs in college football. Tom Brady led the Michigan attack with an Orange Bowl record 369 yards passing and added a career-best four touchdowns in his final game in Maize & Blue. The Wolverines overcame two 14-point deficits on their way to the first overtime win in school history.
2. Torrance Marshall, LB, Oklahoma, 2001
It was only fitting that a defensive player was named the MVP of the lowest-scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Marshall, a senior linebacker, recorded six tackles and intercepted a pass to lead Oklahoma to a 13–2 win over Florida State to secure the first national title for the Sooners since 1985.
1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2005
The Trojans staked a claim to their second straight national title with a surprisingly easy 55–19 win over No. 2 Oklahoma. Leinart completed 18-of-35 passes for 332 yards and tossed an Orange Bowl record five touchdowns without throwing an interception. Steve Smith was on the receiving end of three of Leinart’s TDs.
With the 15th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.
Here are the Top Rose Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:
5. Mark Sanchez, USC, 2009
Sanchez and the USC offense dominated Penn State, jumping out to an insurmountable 31–7 lead at the half en route to a 38–24 victory. Sanchez, in his final game with the Trojans, completed 28-of-35 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added a six-yard touchdown run in USC’s 24-point second quarter.
4. Andre Johnson, Miami (Fla.), 2002
Johnson hooked up with quarterback Ken Dorsey seven times for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes past overmatched Nebraska, 37–14, in the first Rose Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship game.
3. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1999/2000
Dayne and the Badgers played in back-to-back Rose Bowls to start the BCS and won both because of the former Heisman Trophy winner. Dayne rushed for a BCS bowl record 246 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-31 win over UCLA. Both records still stand today. A year later, Dayne rushed for 200 yards on a BCS bowl record 34 carries in the 17-9 win over Stanford. Dayne owns two of the four 200-yard BCS bowl rushing efforts in the 14-year history of the series (Steve Slaton, 204 yards, 2006 Sugar/Vince Young, 200 yards, 2006 Rose).
Here is another one from the Dayne Train:
2. Vince Young, Texas, 2005
Young burst onto the national scene with a breathtaking performance in Texas’ thrilling 38–37 win over Michigan on a perfect day at the Rose Bowl. A sophomore at the time, Young threw for 180 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 192 yards and four scores, including two in the fourth quarter as the Longhorns battled back from a 10-point deficit.
1. Vince Young, Texas, 2006
Young was brilliant in the final game of his career, setting a Rose Bowl record with 467 yards of total offense to lead Texas to a 41–38 victory over favored USC to claim the school’s first national title since 1970. Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards but is remembered more for his work on the ground. He carried the ball 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-yard run on 4th down to give Texas the lead with 19 seconds remaining.
The coaching carousel hasn’t come to a complete stop, but it appears Ball State will hold on to Pete Lembo for at least one more season. Lembo built a winner at Lehigh and Elon before jumping to the FBS ranks, where he has compiled a 15–9 record in two seasons at Ball State. This season, he has guided the Cardinals to a 9–3 mark that includes wins over two AQ conference schools, Indiana (for the second straight season) and South Florida. Ball State lost two games in league play, by two points to Kent State and two points to Northern Illinois — the two teams that played for the league title.
Lembo’s counterpart in this game, UCF’s George O’Leary, is on the tail end of a career that has seen him win 111 games in 16 seasons as a head coach (eight at Georgia Tech, eight at UCF). The Knights are 9–4 in 2012, with losses to Tulsa (twice), at Ohio State and vs. Missouri. O’Leary has won six games or more in Conference USA in five of his eight seasons in Orlando.
Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl – UCF (9–4) vs. Ball State (9–3)
Date and Time: Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: St. Petersburg, Fla.
When UCF has the ball:
For a team with some quality skill-position players — most notably quarterback Blake Bortles and tailback Latavius Murray — the Knights struggles at times to move the ball (seventh in the league in total offense). They do a good job, however, converting yards into points. UCF ranks second in the league and 27th nationally in scoring (35.2 ppg) because it does three important things well: win the turnover battle (16th in the nation at 0.85 per game) convert third downs at a high rate (47.1 percent), and score touchdowns in the Red Zone (40 on 56 trips).
Bortles, who won the job last year as a redshirt freshman, gives UCF a dual-threat at the quarterback position. He’s only netted 205 yards rushing, but he had two games with over 60 yards rushing and ran for seven touchdowns. Murray rushed for 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing three games early in the season with a shoulder injury.
When Ball State has the ball:
Ball State had little trouble scoring points throughout the 2012 regular season, but the offense is facing some issues in preparation of the bowl game. Most notably: Who is going to play quarterback. Keith Wenning, a second-team All-MAC pick, is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered against Ohio on Nov. 14. Kelly Page replaced Wenning but suffered a concussion in the next game, a win over Miami (Ohio). His status won’t be known until days before the game. The next option is Kyle Kamman, a freshman walk-on. The coaching staff is hopeful Wenning will be ready to play.
With uncertainty at quarterback, expect the Cards to lean heavily on tailback Jahwan Edwards. The bruising sophomore — he’s 5-10 and 230 pounds — has rushed for 1,321 yards and 14 scores and ended the regular season by averaging 148.6 yards in the final six games. Edwards should have success against a UCF defense that struggled to stop the run late in the year. The Knights gave up 200-plus rushing yards three times in their final four games, including 290 to Tulsa in the C-USA Championship Game.
This is far from the sexiest matchup of the bowl season, but this should be a very good game between two teams that haven’t received enough attention nationally. The running game is going to be key for both teams. UCF went 9–0 in games in which it rushed for 150 yards or more and 0–4 when it failed to hit the 150 mark. That’s pretty telling. Ball State needs a big performance from Edwards, who should be able to punish the UCF defense. With issues at quarterback, don’t be surprised if the North Carolina native gets the ball 30 to 35 times. And don’t be surprised if he leads Ball State to the win.
Prediction: Ball State 30, UCF 24
Related College Football Content
College football's bowl season begins on Saturday with the New Mexico Bowl and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Here are predictions on the first 14 bowl games.
New Mexico Bowl – Arizona vs. Nevada
Defensive stops will be at a premium in Albuquerque, which plays host to one of only two bowls in which both teams are averaging over 500 yards of offense. Nevada won seven of its first eight games but slumped late to finish with a 7–5 record. Arizona’s regular season ended on a down note — a loss at home to rival Arizona State — but Rich Rodriguez’s first year in Tucson has to be considered a success. The Wildcats are 7–5, highlighted by wins over Oklahoma State, Washington and USC.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — Toledo vs. Utah State
Utah State is one of the best-kept secrets in the nation. The Aggies went 10–2 overall (with a two-point loss at Wisconsin and a three-point loss at BYU) and swept through the WAC with a 6–0 record. Gary Andersen’s club is potent on offense, but the Aggies’ strength is on defense, where they only give up 15.4 points per game. Utah State will be tested by a Toledo team that went 9–3 with all three losses coming by seven points. Utah State 37–30
Poinsettia Bowl — San Diego State vs. BYU
Rocky Long has done an outstanding job maintaining what Brady Hoke built at San Diego State. The Aztecs, 17–8 in two seasons under Long, won a share of the Mountain West championship (their first title since 1986) with a 7–1 record in their final season in the league. BYU completed its second season as an Independent with a 7–5 record. The Cougars are strong defensively but really struggle to score points against quality competition.
San Diego State 28–14
Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl – Ball State vs. UCF
The coaching carousel hasn’t come to a complete stop, but it appears Ball State will hold on to Pete Lembo for at least one more season. Lembo built a winner at Lehigh and Elon before jumping to the FBS ranks, where he has compiled a 15–9 record in two seasons at Ball State. His counterpart in this game, UCF’s George O’Leary, is on the tail end of a career that has seen him win 111 games in 17 seasons as a head coach (eight at Georgia Tech, nine at UCF).
Ball State 30-24
New Orleans Bowl – East Carolina vs. UL Lafayette
UL Lafayette will make the short trip to down I-10 to play in the New Orleans Bowl for the second straight season. The Ragin’ Cajuns played their best football in the latter half of the season, highlighted by wins over ULM and Western Kentucky and a seven-point loss at Florida. East Carolina won a share of its first C-USA East title since 2009 by recording a 7–1 record in league play.
East Carolina 27-20
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas – Boise State vs. Washington
It was a rebuilding year for Boise State, but the Broncos still went 10–2 overall with a four-point loss at Michigan State and a two-point loss vs. San Diego State. Not bad for a team that only returned seven starters. Washington completed its third-straight 5–4 conference season under fourth-year coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies had some big wins (Stanford, Oregon State) but ended the season with an inexplicable loss to Washington State. Boise State 23–20
Hawaii Bowl – Fresno State vs. SMU
Tim DeRuyter’s first season as a head coach went quite well. Fresno State went 9–3 overall and won a share of the Mountain West title with a 7–1 record in league play. The Bulldogs boast two of the top skill players on the West Coast — quarterback Derek Carr and tailback Robbie Rouse. SMU is back in a bowl game for the fourth straight season under coach Junes Jones. The Mustangs’ quarterback is Garrett Gilbert, the 2008 Gatorade National Player of the Year who began his collegiate career at Texas.
Fresno State 37–23
Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl — Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
The good news: Western Kentucky is playing in its first bowl game. The bad news: The Hilltoppers’ coach, Willie Taggart, is now the boss at South Florida and will not coach his team in the bowl game. Lance Guidry, WKU’s defensive coordinator, will serve as the interim coach through the bowl season. The Topper’s opponent, Central Michigan, is arguably the weakest team to be invited to a bowl games in 2012. The Chippewas are 6–6 and rank seventh in the MAC in both total offense and total defense.
Western Kentucky 30–20
Military Bowl – Bowling Green vs. San Jose State
Mike MacIntyre has worked a minor miracle in his short time at San Jose State. The Spartans went 1–12 in 2010, his first season as the head coach, improved to 5–7 last year and then broke through with a 10–2 mark this fall. SJSU features one of the nation’s most efficient passing attacks and a defense that specializes in stopping the run. Bowling Green struggles to score, but the Falcons lead the MAC in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass defense.
San Jose State 27–17
Belk Bowl – Cincinnati vs. Duke
Duke is playing in a bowl game for the first time since 1994, but the Blue Devils limped to the finish line after picking up their sixth win on Oct. 20. Duke lost five of its last six games and gave up an average of 47.8 points in the five losses. Cincinnati won a share of the Big East title for the fourth time in the past five seasons, but the Bearcats lost their head coach Butch Jones, who is now at Tennessee.
Holiday Bowl – UCLA vs. Baylor
This should be one of the most exciting games of the pre-New Year’s Day bowl slate. Baylor, ranked No. 1 in the nation in total offense, ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak, beating Kansas State (ranked No. 1 at the time), Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. UCLA, the champs of the Pac-12 South, went 9–4 under first-year coach Jim L. Mora and feature an explosive offense led by quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin.
Independence Bowl – Ohio vs. ULM
These two mid-majors stole national headlines in September, but neither program was able to sustain its strong play throughout the entire 2012 season. Ohio beat Penn State in Week 1 and won its first seven games but finished 8–4 overall and 4–4 in the MAC. ULM, which won at Arkansas in overtime in Week 1, missed a chance to win its first Sun Belt title since 2005 by losing to UL Lafayette and Arkansas State on consecutive weeks in early November.
Russell Athletic Bowl – Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech
Rutgers had two chances to secure its first trip to a BCS bowl but lost at Pittsburgh and at home vs. Louisville in the final two weeks of the season. The Scarlet Knights will have to “settle” for a Big East co-championship and an invite from the Russell Athletic Bowl. Virginia Tech’s 2012 season has been a struggle. The Hokies have won only six games and need to beat Rutgers to avoid the program’s first losing record since 1992. Rutgers 20–10
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas – Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
Texas Tech’s ego was bruised when head coach Tommy Tuberville made the surprising decision to leave Lubbock to take over for Butch Jones at Cincinnati. Tuberville left behind a team that lost four of its last five games after starting the season with a 6–1 mark. Minnesota sneaks into postseason play as the only bowl team that was four games under .500 in its league. The Golden Gophers went 2–6 in the Big Ten but won all four of its non-conference games to get to the six-win mark.
Texas Tech 33–21
Final regular-season record: 92–48 (76–48 ATS)
Six conference championship games highlight the Week 14 slate, most notably the Georgia vs. Alabama clash in the SEC. There will also BCS bids on the line in the Big Ten (Nebraska vs. Wisconsin), ACC (Florida State vs. Georgia Tech) and Pac-12 (UCLA at Stanford), and possibly even in the MAC, where the winner of the Kent State vs. Northern Illinois battle could possibly end up in the Orange Bowl.
Georgia (+7) vs. Alabama
We won’t have an official playoff until 2014, but the SEC Championship Game is basically a national semifinal. The winner will punch its ticket to the BCS title game, while the loser is likely out of the mix for a BCS bowl. Alabama is clearly the popular pick, but Georgia is good enough on offense to make the Crimson Tide sweat. Remember, Alabama gave up 435 yards and 418 yards to LSU and Texas A&M, respectively, in consecutive games earlier this month. This is still a great defensive team, but unlike last season, it’s a defense that will give up an occasional first down or two. The concern for Georgia is its defense, specifically against the run. The Bulldogs rank 67th nationally in rushing defense (164.4 ypg) and have given up 190 yards or more in six of their 12 games. Expect to see heavy doses of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
Nebraska (-3) vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin is back in the Big Ten title game despite finishing in third place in the Leaders Division. The two top teams in the division, Ohio State and Penn State, combined for a 14–2 record but are both ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. So we are left with a .500 Wisconsin club that has lost three of its last four games (though all three defeats were in overtime) rather than Ohio State, which is undefeated and ranked in the top five in the AP poll. There is no denying that Nebraska belongs in this game. The Cornhuskers won the Legends with a 7–1 record and have won six straight games. Nebraska is known for its rushing attack — and rightfully so — but Taylor Martinez has improved as a passer in his third season as a starter.
UCLA (+8.5) at Stanford (Fri)
UCLA and Stanford get together for the second time in a week. This time the stakes are quite a bit higher — a trip to the Rose Bowl is on the line. Last Saturday, the Cardinal manhandled UCLA at the line of scrimmage en route to a 35–17 victory in Los Angeles. Stanford rushed for 221 yards on 59 carries, led by 142 yards and two touchdowns from Stepfan Taylor. UCLA, on the other hand, only netted 73 yards on the ground, with All-Pac-12 candidate Johnathan Franklin rushing for 65 yards, his second-lowest total of the season. Some have suggested that Stanford didn’t get UCLA’s best effort — the Bruins had already wrapped up the Pac-12 South title — but it’s hard to believe a team would be lacking motivation in its home-finale, especially with a chance to pick up its 10th win of the season. Take the Cardinal to complete the sweep.
Florida State (-14) vs. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech finished in a three-way tie with North Carolina and Miami in the Coastal Division with a 5–3 league record (and 6–6 overall). The Yellow Jackets, however, are the only team of the three eligible for postseason play, so they will be making the trip to Charlotte to play Florida State. Georgia Tech has had some decent wins, but this is not a team with an impressive résumé. The Jackets have four losses by 16 points or more, including a 21-point loss to Middle Tennessee and a 24-point loss to BYU — both at home. Florida State features a roster good enough to win a national title, but the Seminoles simply didn’t get it done on the field, losing at NC State, 17–16, and at home to Florida, 37–26. The Noles are likely headed to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2006, but this season has been a disappointment.
Florida State 30–20
Northern Illinois (-6) vs. Kent State (Fri)
It’s arguably the most attractive matchup in the 16-year history of the MAC Championship Game, with both Kent State and Northern Illinois ranked in the top 25 in the BCS standings with identical 11–1 records. Kent State, ranked No. 17, can play in a BCS bowl by finishing in the top 16 of the BCS standings. For that to happen, the Golden Flashes need to win and either for UCLA (No. 16) to lose to Stanford or Florida State (No. 13) to lose to Georgia Tech. Northern Illinois, ranked No. 21, has more hurdles to climb to reach BCS riches.
Northern Illinois 34–27
UCF (+2) at Tulsa
This is one of two rematches on championship weekend. Two weeks ago in Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane edged UCF 23–21 in a game that ultimately decided which team would host the C-USA title game. Tulsa outgained UCF 461–to-235 but had trouble punching the ball into the end zone. Last week, after clinching the West title (as well as home field advantage in the championship game), Tulsa lost at SMU 35–27. Bill Blankenship will have his team refocused and ready to play this weekend.
Louisville (+3) at Rutgers (Thu)
Neither team is playing its best ball of late. Louisville has lost two straight after a 9–0 start, while Rutgers missed an opportunity to clinch the outright Big East title by losing at Pittsburgh 27–6 last weekend. After muscling their way to 234 yards rushing in a key win at Cincinnati two weeks ago, the Scarlet Knights managed only 50 yards on 24 carries against the Panthers. They should get back on track against a Louisville team that has had trouble stopping the run of late. Over the past five games, the Cards have given up an average of 215.0 yards rushing, including 278 to Syracuse two weeks ago and 255 to Temple three weeks ago. That doesn’t bode well for their trip to Jersey on Thursday night. Rutgers should clinch its first-ever Big East title.
Texas (+11.5) at Kansas State
Kansas State can lock up the Big 12 title and a spot in a BCS bowl with a win over Texas or an Oklahoma loss to TCU. The Wildcats have not played since losing at Baylor two weeks ago when they gave up 580 total yards, including a staggering 342 on the ground. K-State dropped from ninth in the nation in rushing defense to 18th after the Baylor game. Speaking of trouble stopping the run, Texas is allowing 201.5 yards rushing per game — an alarmingly high figure for a team with so much talent. The Horns have also struggled on offense of late, but this team has had its moments this season, scoring 66 at Ole Miss, 41 at Oklahoma State, 45 vs. West Virginia and 56 vs. Baylor. Quarterback Case McCoy will make his first start of the season. David Ash, the starter in the first 11 games, is questionable with a rib injury.
Kansas State 27–20
Oklahoma State (-4) at Baylor
Baylor has bounced back from a four-game losing streak by winning three of its last four games. The Bears are now bowl-eligible for the third straight season for the first time since the early 1990s. As usual, Art Briles’ team is getting it done on offense. Baylor has scored 104 points in its last two games and has topped the 40-point mark in eight of its 11 games. It might take 60 points to win this game, however, when you factor in that Oklahoma State boasts an offense that is averaging 45.6 points per game and Baylor is giving up 38.5 per game. The Pokes scored 48 in an overtime loss to Oklahoma last week with a quarterback (Clint Chelf) who began the season third on the depth chart. Chelf, a junior, will get the start again this weekend. Expect him to put up gaudy numbers.
Oklahoma State 60–49
Oklahoma (-6.5) at TCU
TCU has had better teams and bigger wins, but the Horned Frogs’ 20–13 victory on Thanksgiving night at Texas has to rank among the most gratifying in Gary Patterson’s 12 years as the school’s head coach. Now, the Horned Frogs return home and host the mighty Sooners from Oklahoma. OU has won four straight, though the last three have been by eight points over Baylor, one point over West Virginia and three points, in overtime, over Oklahoma State. The Sooners haven’t exactly been dominant during this winning streak. The offense has been great, most notably quarterback Landry Jones (three games of 400-plus yards), but the defense has allowed an average of 564 yards in its last three games. However, don’t expect TCU to put up a big number on OU this weekend. The Frogs are averaging only 26.7 points in regulation (they’ve had two games go to overtime) this season against FBS opponents. To win this game, TCU will have to keep the score in the 20s or low 30s.
Last week: 5–5 overall (4–6 against the spread)
Season: 85–45 overall (70–60 against the spread)
Middle Tennessee at Arkansas State
The Sun Belt title is on the line in Jonesboro this weekend, but the winner of this game will not be going to the New Orleans Bowl. Louisiana-Lafayette, which can finish no higher than a tie for second place, has already accepted an invite.
Arkansas State 30–24
Cincinnati at Connecticut
UL-Lafayette at FAU
As mentioned above, the Ragin’ Cajuns already know their postseason fate — a return trip to the New Orleans Bowl.
South Alabama at Hawaii
Norm Chow’s first season at Hawaii hasn’t gone well, but the Warriors do have an opportunity to close on a two-game winning streak.
Boise State at Nevada
Boise State’s last trip to Reno ended in a shocking overtime loss that cost the Broncos a spot in a BCS bowl. There’s not nearly as much at stake this time around.
Boise State 34–23
Nicholls State at Oregon State
This game was originally scheduled for Week 1 but had to be pushed back due to Hurricane Isaac. Nicholls State is 1–9 with its lone win over Evangel.
Oregon State 51–0
Pittsburgh at South Florida
Pittsburgh has an opportunity to become bowl-eligible with a win this weekend, which could mean a third-straight trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham.
New Mexico State at Texas State
New Mexico State has lost 10 straight and does not have a win over an FBS opponent. This is arguably the worst team in the country.
Texas State 38–20
Kansas at West Virginia
Charlie Weis’ first season at Kansas will end with only one win — over South Dakota State in Week 1 — but the Jayhawks were competitive in many of their losses.
West Virginia 49–30
These two traditional powers—Alabama and Georgia—will play for the first time in the SEC Championship Game and for only the fifth time overall since 1995. The stakes couldn’t be higher: The winner will play Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship and the loser likely will be squeezed out of the BCS mix.
Much has been made about Georgia’s relatively soft SEC schedule, but it’s important to note that both Georgia and Alabama only played two of the other four SEC teams ranked in the top 10 of the latest BCS standings. Georgia beat No. 4 Florida and lost to No. 10 South Carolina, while Alabama beat No. 7 LSU and lost to No. 9 Texas A&M. Alabama did play Michigan out of conference, but the strength of these two teams’ schedules is about the same.
It’s dangerous to compare results, but just for fun: Alabama and Georgia had four common opponents (Missouri, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Auburn); Alabama won all four games by a total score of 168–37, while Georgia won all four by a total score of 167–74.
So who wins on Saturday? Good question.
When the Alabama Crimson Tide have the ball:
Alabama has built a reputation under Nick Saban as a smashmouth team that relies on its defense and running game. While that is true to a large degree, this team is still adept at throwing the ball down the field. In fact, Alabama as a team ranks No. 1 in the nation in passing efficiency thanks to the work of quarterback A.J. McCarron. The junior averages 9.46 yards per attempt (second-best in the nation) and has thrown 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
The Tide, however, will be without one of their primary targets for the remainder of the season. Junior Kenny Bell, second on the team with 431 receiving yards, was sidelined with a broken leg in the win over Auburn on Saturday. McCarron still has quality targets at his disposal, most notably Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood, but Bell, who averaged 25.4 yards per reception, was Alabama’s top deep threat.
The running game is powered by true freshman T.J. Yeldon and junior Eddie Lacy, who both rank among the top five in the league (min. 100 carries) in yards per attempt. Lacy leads the team with 1,001 yards and 14 touchdowns; Yeldon is second with 847 yards and 10 TDs. And it’s on the ground where Alabama figures to have the most success attacking the Georgia defense. The Bulldogs rank 67th nationally in rushing defense (164.4 ypg) and have given up 190 yards or more in six of their 12 games.
Alabama is versatile enough to beat Georgia on the ground or through the air, but it would be a surprise if Lacy and Yeldon each don’t get at least 12-to-15 carries.
When the Georgia Bulldogs have the ball:
The Bulldogs are one of the most balanced offensive teams in college football, ranking 39th nationally (and fourth in the SEC) in rushing and 35th (and fourth) in passing. The Dawgs feature one of the top quarterbacks in the country in junior Aaron Murray, who has thrown for 3,201 yards and hasn’t thrown an interception in the past four games. Georgia, like Alabama, is dealing with some injuries at wide receiver. Michael Bennett was off to a strong start to his sophomore season (24 catches for 345 yards in five games) before tearing the ACL in right knee against Tennessee. And senior Marlon Brown, who has 27 receptions for 469 yards, was lost with an ACL tear in his left knee against Ole Miss. With Bennett and Brown out of the lineup, Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell, who began the year playing cornerback, have been the primary weapons down the field. The Dawgs also have two tight ends (Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome) with at least 10 catches.
Georgia’s running game appeared to take a hit when Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for 850 yards as a freshman in 2011, was kicked off the team over the summer. No worries. Georgia plugged in two highly touted true freshmen, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who combined to rush for 1,858 yards and 222 touchdowns. Both had their moments, but Gurley emerged as the primary ball-carrier and finished the regular season as the SEC’s leading rusher in league play by averaging 95.3 yards per game. Gurley averaged 5.8 yards per carry vs. SEC competition, second only to Alabama’s Lacy for players with over 100 carries.
Statistically, Alabama features the nation’s No. 1 defense, but Georgia is good enough on offense to make the Crimson Tide sweat. Remember, Alabama gave up 435 yards and 418 yards to LSU and Texas A&M, respectively, in consecutive games earlier this month. This is still a great defensive team, but unlike last season, it’s a defense that will give up an occasional first down or two.
These teams are quite similar. Georgia’s a bit more explosive on offense, but Alabama’s more formidable on defense and has the edge on special teams. You also have to give the advantage to Alabama in coaching. The bottom line: Georgia is very good. Alabama is great.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Alabama vs. Georgia||Alabama 35-21||Alabama 24-23||Alabama 27-20||Alabama 27-21|
SEC 2012 Season Recap and Awards
The regular season ended on Saturday with a dominating performance by the SEC in its four games against the ACC. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt beat ACC opponents by a combined score of 161–74. In league play, Alabama disposed of Auburn with ease (as expected), while Ole Miss became bowl-eligible with a 41–24 win over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel capped off his brilliant freshman season with a banner day against Missouri. He threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns and added 67 yards rushing and two scores on the ground. Manziel has thrown for 3,419 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions and has an SEC-best 1,1181 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns.
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron threw for 216 yards with four touchdowns and no picks in Alabama’s 49–0 Iron Bowl win over Auburn. The junior ranks second nationally in passing efficiency thanks in large part to his 25-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia — Murray ended the regular season on a tear, throwing for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions as the Bulldogs cruised to easy wins over Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. The junior leads the nation in passing efficiency.
Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney was dominant in the Gamecocks’ 27–17 win at Clemson Saturday night. The sophomore defensive end recorded 4.5 sacks and now has a single-season school-record 13 sacks despite missing time with a foot injury.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia —Jones had nine tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, in the Bulldogs’ convincing win over Georgia Tech. The junior linebacker now has 19.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks for the season.
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M — The junior defensive end was relatively quiet in the Aggies’ season-ending win over Missouri, but Moore has been one of the most productive defensive players in the league in 2012. He leads the SEC in tackles for a loss with 20.0 and sacks with 12.5.
Coach of the Year Standings
1. James Franklin, Vanderbilt — The Commodores put the finishing touches on an 8–4 regular season with a 55–21 win at Wake Forest on Saturday. Vanderbilt went 5–3 in the SEC — the school’s first winning league record since 1982 — and won five games by more than 30 points.
2. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — It helps to have one of the most electric players in college football running the show, but Sumlin deserves a ton of credit for the Aggies’ 6–2 SEC record. They have two close losses at home to top-10 teams (Florida and LSU) and three weeks ago they knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators don’t always win with style points, but they finished the regular season with an 11–1 record against a very difficult slate. Florida claims victories over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State.
10 Things We Learned from the SEC in 2012
1. Will Muschamp is the right coach at the right time for Florida
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley took a bit of a risk when he hired Will Muschamp, who had no experience as a head coach, to replace Urban Meyer. And after the Gators went 3–5 in the league last season — the school’s first losing SEC mark since 1986 — it was fair to ask the question: Was Muschamp cut out to be a head coach in the SEC? No one is asking that question after the Gators capped off the 2012 regular season with a win over Florida State in Tallahassee. The Gators went 7–1 in the SEC with four wins vs. teams in the top 13 of the BCS standings.
2. Texas A&M is a perfect fit in the SEC
Texas A&M’s first season in the SEC went about as well as any Aggie could have possibly expected. The team was outstanding (10–2 overall, 6–2 SEC); the brand of football was exciting (A&M led the SEC in total offense and scoring offense); the roster featured star power (Johnny Manziel is the Heisman frontrunner); the coaching was outstanding (Kevin Sumlin is an SEC Coach of the Year candidate and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is being mentioned as a possible head coach at several schools); and the fans were incredibly passionate.
3. Vanderbilt was not a one-hit wonder under James Franklin
James Franklin inherited a program that won a total of four games in the previous two seasons, and guided the 2011 Commodores to six wins and a bowl game. The encore was even better. Vanderbilt closed the books on the 2012 regular season by beating Wake Forest 55–21 in Winston-Salem. The Dores head into bowl season with an 8–4 record after winning their final six games. The offense features a 1,000-yard rusher (Zac Stacy) and receiver (Jordan Matthews), and the defense ranks 18th nationally in both total defense and scoring defense. This was not done with smoke and mirrors.
4. LSU can win big with Zach Mettenberger … in 2013
One of the most important developments in the last month has been the emergence of Zach Mettenberger as a quality quarterback at LSU. The one-time Georgia Bulldog was a huge disappointment through LSU’s first eight games — he had six touchdowns and four picks and was completing less than 50 percent vs. SEC competition — but shined over the last quarter of the season. Over the last four games, Mettenberger completed 61.8 percent of his passes, averaged 267.5 passing yards per game and threw for five TDs and only two interceptions. The Tigers fell short of their primary goal in 2012 — a national title — but they found a quarterback capable of leading them to BCS glory in ’13.
5. Offense doesn’t win championships
This isn’t exactly a revelation, but rolling up a ton of yard doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, especially in the SEC. Only three of the top seven teams in the league in total offense (both overall and in league games only) had a winning SEC record — No. 1 Texas A&M (6–2), No. 3 Georgia (7–1) and No. 4 Alabama (7–1). The other four teams in the top half of the league in total offense (Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State) went a combined 10–22. Conversely, the top six teams in the SEC in total defense (Alabama, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Georgia) all had winning records in league play.
6. Todd Gurley was the best running back in the league
Georgia’s running game appeared to take a hit when Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for 850 yards as a freshman in 2011, was kicked off the team over the summer. No worries. Georgia plugged in two highly touted true freshmen, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who combined to rush for 1,858 yards and 222 touchdowns. Both had their moments, but Gurley emerged as the primary ball-carrier and finished the regular season as the SEC’s leading rushing in league play by averaging 95.3 yards per game. Gurley averaged 5.8 yards per carry vs. SEC competition, second only to Alabama’s Eddie Lacy for players with over 100 carries.
7. The SEC didn’t get Missouri’s best shot in 2012
Texas A&M enjoyed a tremendous first season in the SEC, but the league’s other new member, Missouri, struggled to a 2–6 record in the league. However, the rest of the SEC didn’t get to see Missouri at its best for most of the 2012 season. The offensive line was hit hard by injuries, beginning in the preseason and carrying over until the final weeks when tackle Justin Britt was lost for the season with a knee injury against Florida. The team’s best offensive player in 2011, tailback Henry Josey, didn’t play a down in ’12 as he recovers from a devastating knee injury. And, most important, quarterback James Franklin was never completely healthy at any point this season. He was slowed early in the year by a shoulder injury, then missed time after injuring his knee in a loss at home to Vanderbilt. Franklin did return late in the win against Kentucky and started the next three games, but his mobility was limited — not good for a dual-threat quarterback.
8. Hugh Freeze was the perfect hire for Ole Miss
Perhaps no team in the nation improve as much as Ole Miss in 2012. Last season, the Rebels were outgained by an average of 174.2 yards per game in SEC play. This season, they were a plus-5.3 in league games. Ole Miss did get a significant upgrade at quarterback with the addition of Bo Wallace, but that is still a staggering statistical improvement from one year to the next. The man responsible for the upgrade is Hugh Freeze, who came to Ole Miss with only one year of experience as an FBS head coach, at Arkansas State in 2011. Freeze installed a creative offensive attack that made Ole Miss a fun team to watch even when the Rebels weren’t winning games. As the personnel improves on offense over the next few seasons, Ole Miss should consistently be among the top offensive teams in the league.
9. South Carolina has joined the elite of the SEC
South Carolina failed to win the SEC East, but the Gamecocks won six league games for the second straight season and now have a 17–7 record over the last three seasons. It took a few years longer than he might have liked, but Steve Spurrier has elevated the profile of his program to the point that we should now consider South Carolina among the top tier in the SEC. The Gamecocks are not quite at the Alabama or LSU level, but this team should be in the mix for the SEC East title on an annual basis as long as Spurrier is calling the shots in Columbia.
10. Bobby Petrino is a really, really good football coach
There were other factors — injuries, loss of key personnel — but it became clear in 2012 that Bobby Petrino is an outstanding head coach. How else can you explain Arkansas’ drop from 6–2 in the SEC in ’11 (with Petrino calling the plays) to 2–6 in ’12 (with Petrino no longer in charge)? You can’t. One man meant that much to the Arkansas program. Now, with John L. Smith officially out after one season, the Arkansas administration is doing all it can to unearth another coach who can make the Hogs relevant on a consistent basis in the SEC West.
There isn’t a ton of drama remaining in the regular season. Assuming Alabama beats Auburn — and Nick Saban’s team is favored by over four touchdowns — the SEC Championship Game is set: Georgia vs. Bama. Two teams are fighting for bowl-eligibility; Ole Miss must defeat Mississippi State and Missouri needs a win at Texas A&M to reach the six-win mark. Four league teams will play an opponent from the ACC this weekend — Georgia (Georgia Tech), South Carolina (Clemson), Florida (Florida State) and Vanderbilt (Wake Forest)
Other Week 13 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 13:
1. Will this be Gene Chizik’s final Iron Bowl?
Two years after winning a national title, Auburn is on the verge of the program’s first winless SEC season since 1950. Nothing has been announced, but there is speculation that Gene Chizik will be fired shortly after Auburn concludes its season, which most assume will end with a lopsided loss to rival Alabama. The Tigers are a 31.5-point underdog. While it seems a bit rash to fire a coach who delivered the school its second-ever national championship, there is ample evidence to suggest Chizik is not the long-term solution. Auburn has had one winning SEC record in Chizik’s four seasons; his predecessor, Tommy Tuberville, had eight winning records in nine seasons. Not only will Auburn likely fail to a win a game in the league this season, but the Tigers have been alarmingly uncompetitive. Through seven SEC games, they have been outgained by an average of 199.2 yards and outscored by an average of 20.3 points. And, the stat that everyone loves to point to: Chizik is 24–37 overall and 9–30 in conference play as a head coach when Cam Newton is not his quarterback.
2. Will Alabama’s defense pitch a shutout?
There won’t be much drama at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. It’s pretty much a given that Alabama will beat rival Auburn — and do so with ease. But Nick Saban will keep a close eye (as usual) on his defense. With a date with Georgia looming in the SEC Championship Game, it’s important that Alabama plays well on the defensive end after giving up 435 yards and 418 yards to LSU and Texas A&M, respectively, in its last two SEC games. Prior to that, the Tide had not allowed any team to gain more than 282 yards this season. Auburn’s issues have been well-documented (see above). It will not be a good sign if Alabama struggles on defense this weekend.
3. Can Ole Miss reach bowl-eligibility?
Ole Miss is 0-for-3 in its quest to become bowl-eligible under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels’ last two losses have been especially painful —a 27–26 defeat at home to Vanderbilt in a game in which Ole Miss led 23¬–6 and then last week’s 41–35 heartbreaker at LSU. “We are coming off of another disappointing loss,” Freeze said earlier this week. “I don’t know that in my years of coaching high school, NAIA or Division I football if I’ve ever had three [Ole Miss also lost by three to Texas A&M this season] more difficult ones in one year. I’m extremely proud of our kids and coaches and the way that they bounce back from those.” Motivation should not be a problem this week against hated rival Mississippi State. The Rebels have lost three straight and five of the past seven in the series. Freeze would like nothing more than to snap the streak in his first Egg Bowl as the head coach. “There’s a lot riding on this game for us,” he said. “Obviously the Egg Bowl is enough, but I sure would like to send these seniors out going to play in a postseason game and our fans to get to experience that.”
4. Can Florida get its offense going?
We thought Florida had figured some things out on offense after scoring 31 points or more four times in a five-game stretch from late September through late October. We were wrong. The Gators have averaged only 18.3 points in their last four, and that includes games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State. Overall, Florida ranks 12th in the SEC in total offense (332.9 ypg) and 10th in scoring offense (25.8 ppg). Those are troubling stats that become even scarier when you have a trip to Tallahassee looming. Florida State ranks first nationally in total defense (236.3 ypg) and has given up more than 22 points only once this season. It’s strange to say this about a team ranked fourth in the BCS standings, but it’s tough to envision a scenario in which Florida musters enough offense to win this game.
5. Can Georgia control Georgia Tech’s option attack?
Georgia is 3–1 against Georgia Tech since Paul Johnson and his option attack arrived in Atlanta. After losing 45–42 in Athens in the first meeting, the Dawgs have won three straight. But even in the victories, Georgia has had trouble with Tech’s option offense; the Jackets have averaged 317 rushing yards and 30 points in the four games. Last week, Georgia prepped for Tech by playing Georgia Southern, an FCS team that has been running the option for years. The results couldn’t have thrilled Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham: Georgia Southern rushed for 302 yards on 58 attempts, with three different players averaging over 4.5 yards per carry. Stopping Tech’s attack this week will be a challenge.
6. Can Johnny Manziel finish strong?
Johnny Manziel, now considered the Heisman frontrunner, has one more opportunity to impress the voters. The redshirt freshman from Texas A&M closes what has been a magical regular season against Missouri on Saturday. Manziel leads the SEC in rushing (144.1 ypg), ranks fourth in the league in passing efficiency and ranks second nationally in total offense (378.3 ypg). He had one bad game — three picks and no touchdowns in a loss against LSU — but shined on the biggest of stages in the Aggies’ win at Alabama two weeks ago. He completed 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns and added 92 yards rushing against arguably the nation’s finest defense.
The Heisman is Manziel’s to lose.
7. Can Carolina make it four straight against Clemson?
South Carolina is in the midst of its most successful run in school history. The Gamecocks are 17–7 in the SEC over the last three seasons and have won three straight against their rivals from Clemson. It will be a significant challenge to increase that streak to four games. The Tigers, 10–1 overall, have been on a tremendous roll offensively for the majority of the 2012 season. They rank fourth nationally in scoring (44.6 ppg) and are fresh off of a 62-point, 754-yard performance last week against NC State. It was the sixth time in the last seven games that Clemson has scored at least 40 points. South Carolina was one of the top defensive teams in college football through the first half of the season but has not been as stout in the past month. Sophomore end Jadeveon Clowney, arguably the best defensive player in the nation, has been slowed by a foot injury. Carolina will need Clowney to be back to his disruptive self on Saturday to slow down the potent Tigers’ attack.
8. Can Vanderbilt handle prosperity?
James Franklin has done a great job keeping his team focused on the task at hand — the next game — throughout the 2012 season. But that will more difficult than ever this weekend. The Commodores are riding high after beating Tennessee 41–18 on Saturday night in Nashville. It was their fifth straight win overall and their first win over Tennessee at home since 1982. This week, the Commodores head to Wake Forest to play a struggling Demon Deacon team that has lost its last two games (at NC State and at Notre Dame) by a combined score of 75–6. Last year, Vanderbilt closed its regular season with a 41–7 win at Wake Forest. Franklin is no doubt guarding against overconfidence this week.
9. Can the LSU offense take its show on the road?
LSU has played well offensively in recent weeks, scoring 41 against Ole Miss, 37 against Mississippi State and gaining 435 yards in a 21–17 loss to Alabama. But all three of those games were at home. The Tigers have not played well offensively in their three previous road trips — and yes, they have only played three road games. LSU has averaged 14 points and 289 yards on the road this year, and only one of those opponents (Florida) is ranked in the top half of the SEC in total defense. The Tigers scored 12 points in a way-too-close win over Auburn, six in a loss at Florida and 24 in a win at Texas A&M. Zach Mettenberger has shown tremendous improvement at quarterback in the latter half of the season. Now it’s time for the junior to prove he can perform at a high level on the road.
10. Will Tennessee actually go winless in the SEC?
Tennessee dropped to 0–7 in the SEC with its 41–18 loss at Vanderbilt last week. The Volunteers need to beat Kentucky on Saturday to avoid their first winless conference season in school history. On two occasions Tennessee has only won one game (1–5–1 in 1964 and 1–5 in 1977), but never have the Vols done the unthinkable — fail to win an SEC game. And it probably won’t happen. As much as Tennessee is struggling, it is still a much more talented team than Kentucky, which is also winless in the SEC. The Vols would have to play really poorly not to win this game.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
LSU at Arkansas
|LSU 28-14||LSU 24-13||
Georgia Tech at Georgia
Kentucky at Tennessee
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest
Florida at Florida State
Florida State 28-10
|Florida St. 24-20||
Florida St. 24-17
|Florida St. 27-17|
Auburn at Alabama
Miss. State at Ole Miss
Ole Miss 28-24
|Ole Miss 34-30||
Miss. State 31-30
|Ole Miss 31-27|
South Carolina at Clemson
Missouri at Texas A&M
Texas A&M 35-14
|Texas A&M 30-21||
Texas A&M 41-24
|Texas A&M 33-20|
There were no changes in the power rankings, but it was still a huge weekend for the SEC. Thanks to losses by both Kansas State and Oregon, the winner of the SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia will be in position to play for the national championship. Also of note, Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in Nashville for the first time in 30 years.
Post-Week 12 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel is now at the forefront of the Heisman Trophy race. The redshirt freshman quarterback leads the SEC in rushing (101.3 ypg) and ranks second in the nation in total offense (378.3 ypg).
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron barely broke a sweat in the Crimson Tide’s 49–0 win over Western Carolina. The junior quarterback completed 6-of-6 for 133 yards and one touchdown. He now ranks third nationally in passing efficiency.
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia — Murray had a productive day throwing the football in the Bulldogs’ 45–14 win over Georgia Southern. He threw for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The junior ranks first in the nation in passing efficiency and has 15 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games.
Post-Week 12 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney did not play in South Carolina’s win over Wofford due to a foot injury. For the season, the sophomore defensive end has 42 total tackles (17 for a loss) with 9.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones had six tackles, including one for a loss, in the Bulldogs’ win over Georgia Southern. The junior linebacker now has 18 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks for the season.
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M — The junior defensive end recorded four tackles in the Aggies’ win over Sam Houston State. He continues to lead the SEC in tackles for a loss with 20.0 and sacks with 12.5.
Post-Week 12 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — It helps to have one of the most electric players in college football running the show, but Sumlin deserves a ton of credit for the Aggies’ 5–2 SEC record. They have two close losses at home to top-10 teams (Florida and LSU) and two weeks ago they knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
2. James Franklin, Vanderbilt — The Commodores rolled past Tennessee with surprising ease on Saturday night to improve to 7–4 in Franklin’s second season on the job. Vanderbilt tied a school record with five SEC wins in Franklin’s second season.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators aren’t exactly playing their best ball of late, but Muschamp has this program back among the nation’s elite. Last year, in his first on the job, Florida went 3–5 in the SEC. This year, the Gators went 7–1
Post-Week 12 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (10–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 12 result: Beat Western Carolina 49–0
Alabama disposed of FCS lightweight Western Carolina with little difficulty on Saturday afternoon. The big news, however, came late Saturday night, when both Kansas State (BCS No. 1) and Oregon (BCS No. 2) were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten. Alabama climbed to No. 2 in the BCS standings and will play for the national title with wins over Auburn next week and Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Next week: Auburn
2. Georgia (10–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 12 result: Beat Georgia Southern 45–14
It was a struggle for a while, but Georgia pulled away in the second half en route to a 45–14 win over Georgia Southern. The Bulldogs had some trouble at times with Georgia Southern’s option attack, but only allowed one touchdown through the first three quarters and 318 total yards for the game. Aaron Murray was the offensive star for Georgia, throwing for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. With both Oregon and Kansas State losing, Georgia now controls its own destiny to play for the national title.
Next week: Georgia Tech
3. Florida (10–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 12 result: Beat Jacksonville State 23–0
Nothing comes easy for the Gators these days. Florida improved to 10–1 overall with a 23–0 win over Jacksonville State despite scoring only one offensive touchdown and recording only 356 yards of offense. Jacoby Brissett, playing for the injured Jeff Driskell, completed 14-of-22 passes for 154 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Senior tailback Mike Gillieslee rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries, his first 100-yard game since early October.
Next week: at Florida State
4. LSU (9–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 12 result: Beat Ole Miss 41–35
LSU kept its slim SEC West title hopes alive with a wild 41–35 win over Ole Miss in Baton Rouge. The Tigers gave up 463 total yards, including 310 through the air, but made key plays at the right time. Late in the fourth quarter, Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards sacked Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace on consecutive plays to knock the Rebels from the 18 to the 36-yard line. Then, after Ole Miss missed a 53-yard field goal attempts, LSU drove 64 yards on nine plays for the game-winning touchdown. To win the SEC West and play in the SEC title game, LSU needs to beat Arkansas, Missouri needs to beat Texas A&M and Auburn needs to beat Alabama.
Next week: at Arkansas
5. Texas A&M (9–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 12 result: Beat Sam Houston State 47–28
Texas A&M won for the ninth time in the past 10 games, cruising to a 47–28 win over FCS power Sam Houston State. Quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 267 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 100 yards and two scores to lead the Aggie attack. With Collin Klein struggling in Kansas State’s loss to Baylor, Manziel has emerged as the frontrunner in the Heisman Trophy race.
Next week: Missouri
6. South Carolina (9–2, 6–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 12 result: Beat Wofford 24–7
South Carolina was outgained 330-to-293 but managed to escape Williams-Brice Stadium with a tougher-than-expected 24–7 win over Wofford. Connor Shaw completed 16-of-20 passes for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and Kenny Miles rushed for 127 yards and a score to lead the Carolina offense. The Gamecocks completed their first unbeaten (7–0) at home since 1987.
Next week: at Clemson
7. Mississippi State (8–3, 4–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 12 result: Beat Arkansas 45–14
Mississippi State snapped a three-game losing streak with a emphatic 45–14 win over Arkansas in Starkville. The Bulldogs fell behind 14–7 early in the second quarter but scored the game’s final 31 points to secure no worse than a .500 record in the SEC. Tyler Russell was sharp for MSU, completing 19-of-32 passes for 274 yards with four touchdowns an no interceptions. Tailback LaDarius Perkins, who missed the LSU game with an injury, returned to the lineup and rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries. The Bulldogs recorded a season-high 505 yards of total offense.
Next week: at Ole Miss
8. Vanderbilt (7–4, 5–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 12 result: Beat Tennessee 41–18
Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in Nashville for the first time since 1982 — and did so in dominating fashion. The Commodores broke open a tight game with 28 straight points in the second half to claim their fifth straight win. The Vanderbilt defense held the powerful Volunteer offense to 303 total yards (second fewest of the season) and allowed UT to convert only 2-of-15 on third down. Jordan Rodgers outdueled UT’s Tyler Bray, throwing for 245 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-point win was the largest margin of victory for Vanderbilt over Tennessee since 1954. The Commodores, with five SEC wins, have secured their first winning league record since 1982.
Next week: at Wake Forest
9. Ole Miss (5–6, 2¬–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 12 result: Lost to LSU 41–35
It’s been a tough two weeks for the Ole Miss Rebels. One week after blowing a 23–6 second half lead at home to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss battled LSU to the wire in Baton Rouge before falling 41–35. The Rebels outgained LSU 463-to-427 but committed four turnovers and had trouble protecting quarterback Bo Wallace on a decisive fourth quarter drive. Wallace threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns on only 15 completions but was responsible for three of the Rebels’ turnovers. He also rushed for two touchdowns, including a 58-yard run up the middle in the first quarter. Ole Miss must beat rival Mississippi State in Oxford next week to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: Mississippi State
10. Arkansas (4–7, 2–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 12 result: Lost to Mississippi State 45–14
It’s official: Arkansas, a top-15 team in the preseason, will not play in a bowl game. The Razorbacks dropped to 4–7 overall and 2–5 in the SEC with a 45–17 loss at Mississippi State. Arkansas was done in once again by a pass defense that has been among the worst in the nation in 2012. MSU threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the seventh team to top the 275-yard mark against the Hogs. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 23-of-29 passes for 225 yard and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice. Wilson has thrown seven picks in the last four games; he threw only six all of last season.
Next week: LSU
11. Missouri (5–6, 2–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 12 result: Lost to Syracuse 31–27
Missouri lost for the fourth time at home this season, falling to Syracuse 31–27 on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds remaining. Missouri held leads of 14–3, 17–10, 24–17 and 27–24 but had trouble stopping the Syracuse passing attack all night long. SU quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns and wide out Alec Lemon caught 12 passes for 244 yards. Missouri quarterback James Franklin completed 17-of-23 for 278 yards and two scores but had to be replaced in the fourth quarter for an undisclosed injury. The Tigers must beat Texas A&M in College Station to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: at Texas A&M
12. Tennessee (4–7, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 12 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 41–18
The Derek Dooley era is over. It became official on Sunday morning, about 12 hours after the Vols suffered their worst defeat to Vanderbilt since 1954. The final score was 41–18 — and it could have been worse. The Volunteers were completely dominated in the second half on their way to their eighth straight SEC road loss. The Tennessee offense, which had scored 103 points in the previous two games, was held to one touchdown (the Vols added a scored on special teams). Tyler Bray had his worst outing of the season, completing only 11-of-29 for 103 yards with one touchdown and two picks. Bray was pulled in the second quarter but returned to the lineup in the second half. Tennessee ends its season next week vs. Kentucky. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as the interim head coach.
Next week: Kentucky
13. Auburn (3–8, 0–7 SEC)
Last week: 13
Week 12 result: Beat Alabama A&M 51–7
This one was never in doubt. Auburn jumped on Alabama A&M early, taking a 21–0 lead after one quarter and a 35–0 at the half. The Tigers rolled up 502 yards offense, led by tailbacks Tre Mason (181 yards) and Onterio McCalebb (104 yards). True freshman Jonathan Wallace continues to play well at quarterback; he completed 10-of-18 for 171 yards and one touchdown. Auburn now makes the trip across the state to battle rival Alabama, which is back in the national title picture.
Next week: at Alabama
14. Kentucky (2–9, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 12 result: Beat Samford 34–3
Joker Phillips won in his final game at Commonwealth Stadium as the Wildcats snapped an eight-game winning streak with a convincing win over Samford. The Cats outgained Samford 455-to-102 by dominating on the line of scrimmage. UK ran for a season-high 342 yards, with Raymond Sanders (123 yards), Dyshawn Mobley (82) and Jonathan George (76) doing most of the damage. Jalen Whitlow received most of the snaps at quarterback and completed 10-of-13 for 66 yards and one touchdown.
Next week: at Tennessee
College football's Week 12 schedule is highlighted by two huge battles in the Pac-12. Stanford visits Oregon in a game that likely will decide the South Division champion, while USC makes the short trip to UCLA for the game of the year in the South.
No. 109 FIU at No. 17 FAU
FAU is showing signs of life late in Carl Pelini’s first season as the head coach. The Owls have won two of three, highlighted by a 37–28 win at Western Kentucky last weekend. The offense, which scored 20 points or fewer in each of the first six games, has scored 34 or more in three of the past four.
No. 121 Hawaii at No. 95 Air Force
Five years ago, Hawaii played in a BCS bowl. Two years ago, the Warriors won 10 games. Now, under first-year coach Norm Chow, this is one of the worst teams in the nation.
Air Force 38–3
No. 14 Stanford at No. 1 Oregon
It’s a testament to Oregon’s dominance that the Ducks are favored by nearly three touchdowns against the second-best team in the Pac-12 North — and maybe the second-best team in the entire league.
No. 2 Kansas State at No. 42 Baylor
Kansas State has given up 16 touchdowns in seven Big 12 games. Baylor has given up 38 in six games. Go with the team that allows fewer touchdowns.
Kansas State 44–28
No. 84 Wake Forest at No. 3 Notre Dame
Wake Forest was held to 185 total yards in a 37–6 loss at NC State last week. That same NC State team gave up 446 yards to Virginia the previous week. The Notre Dame defense should dominate.
Notre Dame 24–6
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 25 Wisconsin
Ohio State has a two-game lead on Wisconsin in the Leaders Division but is not eligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. The Badgers will go in their stead after clinching a spot with an emphatic 62–14 win at Indiana on Saturday.
Ohio State 24–20
Western Carolina at No. 5 Alabama
The biggest mismatch of the weekend has to be Western Carolina vs. Alabama. The Catamounts are 1–9 and are allowing 519.8 yards and 40.0 points per game. It’s a safe bet that Alabama will bounce back from its only loss of the season with a comfortable win.
Georgia Southern at No. 6 Georgia
Georgia true freshman Todd Gurley is closing in on 1,000 yards. He has 973 yards while sharing time with fellow rookie Keith Marshall, and is only 41 yards behind SEC leader Johnny Manziel.
Jacksonville State at No. 7 Florida
Jacksonville State is the last school from the FCS ranks to beat an SEC school. The Gamecocks defeated Ole Miss in Oxford 49–48 on the opening week of the 2010 season.
No. 38 Ole Miss at No. 8 LSU
Ole Miss has played well in recent trips to Baton Rouge: The Rebels are 4–4 in their last eight at Tiger Stadium with three of the losses coming by three points or fewer and the other by seven points.
Sam Houston State at No. 9 Texas A&M
This should be a fun game. Sam Houston State leads the FCS in scoring offense (46.2 ppg) and ranks sixth in total offense (490.3 ypg).
Texas A&M 48–20
Wofford at No. 10 South Carolina
South Carolina takes on a solid Wofford team that is 8–2 overall and 6–2 in the SoCon. The schools have met twice in the past seven years, with Carolina winning 27–20 in 2006 and 23–13 in ’08.
South Carolina 31–13
No. 11 Florida State at No. 83 Maryland
Maryland’s season has been derailed by injuries, most notably at the quarterback position. The Terps have averaged 14.5 points during their four-game losing streak.
Florida State 41–0
No. 56 NC State at No. 12 Clemson
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Clemson has been on quite a roll. Since losing at Florida State in late September, the Tigers have won six straight by an average margin of 25.2 points.
No. 13 Oklahoma at No. 35 West Virginia
This was expected to be one of the marquee games in the Big 12 this season. But that was before we knew just how bad West Virginia would be at preventing their opponents from gaining yards and scoring points. In league play, the Mountaineers are giving up an average of 517.8 yards and 51.0 points per game.
No. 80 California at No. 15 Oregon State
Cal’s season will come to an end this Saturday in Corvallis. The question is: Will this also be the end of the Jeff Tedford era?
Oregon State 31–17
No. 21 USC at No. 16 UCLA
USC has been arguably the most disappointing team in the nation in 2012. UCLA has been one of the biggest surprises. The result: UCLA is one-half game up on its cross-town rival in the Pac-12 South and controls its own destiny to play in the league title game.
No. 65 Minnesota at No. 17 Nebraska
Here’s an odd stat about Minnesota. The Gophers have scored either 13 points or 17 points in six of their last seven games. The exception was in a 44–28 win over Purdue three weeks ago.
No. 74 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan
Iowa is trying to avoid its first five-game losing streak since 2000, when Kirk Ferentz’s second Hawkeye team opened the season 0–5 en route to a 3–9 season.
No. 48 Utah State at No. 20 Louisiana Tech
It’s the game of the year in the WAC. Louisiana Tech has received more national pub, but Utah State is having an outstanding season as well. The Aggies are 8–2, with a two-point loss to Wisconsin and a three-point loss to BYU.
Utah State 31–27
No. 22 Texas Tech at No. 27 Oklahoma State
These two teams have something in common: They both struggled to beat Kansas. The Cowboys topped KU 20–14 in Lawrence in mid-October. Last week, Texas Tech needed double-overtime to beat Kansas 41–34 in Lubbock.
Oklahoma State 34–30
No. 23 Arizona at No. 63 Utah
This is a huge game for a Utah program that needs two wins to become bowl-eligible for a 10th-straight season. The Utes are 4–1 at home with the only loss coming by 10 points to USC. Arizona, however, has too much firepower.
No. 26 Rutgers at No. 37 Cincinnati
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has to be a bit concerned about his team’s performance of late. The Knights lost at home to Kent State two weeks ago and then struggled with Army this past weekend. Rutgers was outgained 337-to-252 and didn’t hold its first lead until midway through the fourth quarter.
No. 46 Arkansas at No. 28 Mississippi State
There’s one stat that best illustrates Arkansas’ struggles in 2012. And it’s quite simple: The Razorbacks aren’t scoring enough touchdowns. Last year, with Bobby Petrino calling the plays, Arkansas scored 32 touchdowns in eight SEC games. This year, the Hogs have scored 16 touchdowns in six league games.
Mississippi State 31–24
No. 29 Washington at No. 100 Colorado
Colorado’s defense has been unbelievably bad over the past five games. The Buffs have given up 51, 50, 70, 48 and 56 points in consecutive weeks.
No. 71 Indiana at No. 31 Penn State
Indiana must bounce back from a sobering 62–14 loss at home to Wisconsin. The Hoosiers can still become bowl-eligible but must beat Penn State and Purdue on the road. That’s not likely to happen.
Penn State 37–27
No. 32 Northwestern at No. 33 Michigan State
Northwestern is 7–3 overall and has had double-digit leads in the second half of all three losses — at Penn State, vs. Nebraska and at Michigan. This team could easily be in the thick of the Legends Division race.
No. 52 Tennessee at No. 34 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt, 4–3 in the SEC, has won more than two league games for only the third time since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1992. With a win on Saturday, the Commodores will have a winning SEC record for the first time since 1982.
No. 36 Iowa State at No. 87 Kansas
Kansas has yet to beat an FBS team in 2012, but the Jayhawks have been relatively competitive — at least for a bad team. They lost by 14 to TCU, by seven at Northern Illinois, by six to Oklahoma State, by four to Texas and by seven in double-overtime at Texas Tech.
No. 101 Washington State at 39 Arizona State
Arizona State was once 3–0 in the Pac-12. Now, the Sun Devils are 3–4. The problem? Defense. ASU gave up 17 points or fewer in its first three league games but has allowed 36 or more in each of its four losses.
Arizona State 34–17
No. 41 Syracuse at No. 51 Missouri
Missouri won its first SEC road game last week — 51–48 in four overtimes at Tennessee — despite giving up 432 passing yards. That has to be a concern for Gary Pinkel and his staff. Syracuse has been on a roll offensively.
No. 112 Colorado State at No. 43 Boise State
Boise State can secure no worse than a tie for the Mountain West title in its last season in the league by beating Colorado State this week and struggling Nevada in Reno the following week. For the Broncos to win the title outright, San Diego State will have to lose at Wyoming next week.
Boise State 38–10
No. 55 Duke at No. 60 Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets rushed for 380 yards and seven touchdowns and threw for 208 yards and one score (on only seven completions) in a 68–50 win at North Carolina on Saturday. This is not a good matchup for a Duke team that ranks 85th in the nation in rushing defense and has given up an average of 43.8 points in its last four games.
Georgia Tech 44–30
No. 77 South Florida at No. 45 Miami (Fla.)
South Florida snapped a six-game losing streak by beating UConn 13–6 last week at home. The Bulls need to win their final three games to become bowl eligible. Not going to happen.
No. 59 UCF at 47 Tulsa
These two teams likely will meet again in the Conference USA title game in a few weeks, with the winner serving as the host. Neither team has lost to a non-AQ conference opponent in 2012.
No. 50 Kent State at No. 76 Bowling Green
It’s a huge game in the MAC East between 6–0 Kent State and 5–1 Bowling Green. Kent will clinch a spot in the league title game with a win; Bowling Green would still need to beat Buffalo next week to secure a trip to Detroit.
Kent State 34–24
No. 54 Virginia Tech at No. 93 Boston College
This figures to be the final home game for Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani, who has been on the Eagles’ staff since 1997. BC is 2¬–8 overall and 1–5 in the ACC.
Virginia Tech 23–13
No. 57 BYU at No. 64 San Jose State
San Jose State is 8–2 overall and ranks second or third in the WAC in every key offensive and defensive statistic. It’s a bit of a surprise that the Spartans are a 3-point underdog at home.
San Jose State 28–21
No. 66 Arkansas State at No. 82 Troy
Things are clicking for Gus Malzahn’s offense in the latter half of the season. The Red Wolves have won five straight and are averaging 40.4 points during that span.
Arkansas State 47–30
No. 105 North Texas at No. 67 ULM
ULM played its way into the national spotlight in September by beating Arkansas and losing by three to Auburn and by five to Baylor. But the Warhawks have fallen on hard times, with consecutive losses to UL Lafayette and Arkansas State. The once-explosive offense has struggled since quarterback Kolton Browning went down with an injury against UL Lafayette.
No. 69 Middle Tennessee at No. 122 South Alabama
Middle Tennessee needs to win its next two games — at South Alabama and vs. Troy — to set up a winner-take-all Sun Belt showdown at Arkansas State on Dec. 1.
Middle Tennessee 37–10
No. 111 Texas State at No. 70 Navy
Texas State scored 55 points and rolled up 577 yards of offense last week in a seven-point loss to Louisiana Tech. Not bad for a team in its first season in the FBS ranks.
No. 72 Purdue at No. 99 Illinois
Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten in total offense in league play, averaging only 267.0 yards per game and 4.07 yards per play. Last week, the Fighting Illinois lost at home to Minnesota 17–3.
No. 85 Western Kentucky at No. 75 UL-Lafayette
Western Kentucky has played its way out of the Sun Belt race. After opening the conference slate with quality wins at Arkansas State and Troy, the Hilltoppers have lost three of four, including two at home (Middle Tennessee and FAU).
Alabama A&M at No. 78 Auburn
Alabama A&M is 7–3 overall but plays in one of the weakest FCS leagues (SWAC). Auburn should roll with ease.
No. 81 East Carolina at No. 115 Tulane
East Carolina still has an outside shot at the MAC East title. The Pirates must beat Tulane and Marshall and hope UCF loses at Tulsa (possible) and at home vs. UAB (not likely).
East Carolina 41–24
No. 86 Temple at No. 110 Army
Temple’s offensive woes continued last week at home vs. Cincinnati. The Owls recorded only 267 yards of offense in a 34–10 loss. They have failed to score more than 17 points in each of their last five games.
No. 88 SMU at No. 96 Rice
Garrett Gilbert, the former Texas Longhorn and one-time prep All-American, has thrown 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions
in his first season at SMU. He ranks 10th in C-USA in passing efficiency.
No. 89 Nevada at No. 108 New Mexico
Nevada’s slump continues. The Wolf Pack lost their third-straight game last weekend, dropping a 52–36 decision at home to Fresno State. The offense has done its part, scoring 31 points or more in all three losses. The defense, however, has not cooperated. The Pack rank 91st nationally in total defense and 101st in scoring defense.
No. 118 Eastern Michigan at No. 90 Western Michigan
After breaking through with a 4–4 record last fall, Eastern Michigan is staring at a winless MAC season. The Eagles are 0–6 with a trip to Western Michigan and a home date with Northern Illinois. Ron English could be in trouble.
Western Michigan 31–20
Samford at No. 91 Kentucky
Joker Phillips will coach his last game in Lexington on Saturday against Samford. It will be an emotional day for a man who has spent the majority of his adult life at the University of Kentucky. The Franklin, Ky., native played for the Cats from 1981-84 and served on the UK staff in some capacity for 19 of his 25 years in coaching.
No. 94 Houston at No. 92 Marshall
It’s safe to say that Tony Levine’s first season as a head coach has not gone well. Houston is 4–6 overall and 3–3 in C-USA — one season after winning 13 games.
No. 114 Memphis at No. 97 UAB
Neither team has won many games this season, but it’s clear that both UAB and Memphis have improved under the direction of their first-year coaches — Garrick McGee (UAB) and Justin Fuente (Memphis).
No. 102 Buffalo at No. 119 UMass
UMass broke through with its first victory of the season last week, holding on to beat Akron 22–14 on the road. With home games remaining against Buffalo and Central Michgan, the Minutemen have an opportunity to end the season on a three-game winning streak.
No. 98 Miami (Ohio) at No. 106 Central Michigan
Central Michigan tailback Zurlon Tipton has rushed for 100 yards or more in four straight games, highlighted by a 243-yard, three-touchdown effort against Akron three weeks ago.
Central Michigan 34–28
No. 103 Wyoming at No. 113 UNLV
Wyoming is 2–0 since Dave Christensen’s return from his one-game suspension for calling Air Force coach Troy Calhoun a “flyboy” — among (many) other things.
No. 104 UTEP at No. 117 Southern Miss
Southern Miss has two more opportunities to pick up its first win of the Ellis Johnson era. The Golden Eagles are a 3.5-point dog at home this week and then travel to Memphis for the finale next weekend.
No. 116 UTSA at No. 123 Idaho
Idaho is limping to the finish line under interim head coach Jason Gesser. The Vandals rank last in the nation in scoring offense (15.4 ppg) and 118th in scoring defense (43.0 ppg).
Last week: 41–12
All 14 SEC teams are in action this weekend, but there are only three games involving two league teams. And all three feature at least one team that needs to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. Tennessee is 4–6 and needs to beat Vanderbilt this week and Kentucky next week to get to the six-win mark. Arkansas, also 4–6, has a tougher road. The Hogs need to win at Mississippi State and beat LSU in Fayetteville on the Friday after Thanksgiving. And Ole Miss, at 5–5, needs to win one more game, either at LSU this weekend or vs. Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
Other Week 12 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 12:
1. Can Ole Miss pick up win No. 6 in Baton Rouge?
After losing at Georgia and at home to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss is down to two more opportunities to pick up that elusive sixth win. Conventional wisdom suggests the Rebels have a better chance of beating Mississippi State at home than LSU in Baton Rouge. And while that is probably true, the Rebels do have a history of playing very well at Tiger Stadium. Ole Miss is 4–4 in their last eight games in Baton Rouge with three of the losses coming by three points or fewer and the other by seven points. One of the most noteworthy wins in the series came in 2008, when Houston Nutt’s first Rebel team won 31–13 at Tiger Stadium. That is the last time LSU has lost by more than 10 points at home. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, a Mississippi native who was a member of Ed Orgeron’s staff from 2005-07, knows the history of this series quite well. “One of the earliest memories I have is sitting in the stands and hearing exactly how the Ole Miss fans felt about LSU in almost any game,” Freeze says. “You always remember the Billy Cannons and all of those things. It's quite clear to me the rivalry that this is and how well Ole Miss usually plays LSU.”
2. Can we now call LSU a passing offense?
Something strange is happening in Baton Rouge. For the first time since November 2010, LSU has had more yards passing than rushing in two consecutive games (against FBS opponents). Two weeks ago, the Tigers threw for 296 yards and rushed for 139 in a 21–17 loss to Alabama. Last Saturday, they threw for 273 and rushed for 119 in a 37–17 win against Mississippi State. The reason for this new-found success in the passing game has been the improved play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. In his first four SEC games, Mettenberger completed 46.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions; in his last two games, he has completed 66.2 percent with three touchdowns and no picks. It’s not likely we will ever see a Les Miles-coached team fling the ball all over the field on a consistent basis, but it’s a positive sign that the Tigers are able to throw the ball down the field when needed.
3. Can Mississippi State slow down the Arkansas passing attack?
Mississippi State’s secondary has taken a beating in recent weeks. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 280 passing yards during their three-game losing streak. After seven games, all wins, MSU ranked 21st nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 188.6 yards per game. After losses to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU, the Dogs have dropped to 43rd (216.0 ypg). This week, Arkansas comes calling. The Razorbacks have been one of the biggest disappointments in the nation, but they still do one thing very well — throw the ball down the field. The Hogs ranks 19th nationally in passing offense (302.6 ypg) and lead the SEC with eight passing plays of 50 yards or more. Arkansas isn’t as balanced as State’s three previous opponents, but this offense is more than capable of putting up a bunch of points on what has become a suspect Mississippi State defense.
4. Can Arkansas score some touchdowns?
There’s one stat that best illustrates Arkansas’ struggles in 2012. And it’s quite simple: The Razorbacks aren’t scoring enough touchdowns. Last year, with Bobby Petrino calling the plays, Arkansas scored 32 touchdowns in eight SEC games. This year, the Hogs have scored 16 touchdowns in six league games. There are mitigating factors — injuries to some key personnel, losses to graduation at wide receiver, etc. — but this is still a significant decrease in production. As a result, a team that was hoping to contend for an SEC West title is now fighting for bowl-eligibility.
5. Which SEC team is most at risk to losing to a FCS opponent this week?
No SEC team has lost to a member of the FCS ranks since Ole Miss opened the 2010 season with a 49–48 loss to Jacksonville State. This week, there are an unprecedented seven games featuring an SEC team vs. an FCS opponent. The league figures to win all seven, but there are a few teams that should be on upset alert. Kentucky, which is 1–9, hosts Samford (7–3) in the final home game of the Joker Phillips era. South Carolina takes on a solid Wofford team that is 8–2 overall and 6–2 in the SoCon. The schools have met twice in the past seven years, with Carolina winning 27–20 in 2006 and 23–13 in ’08. Struggling Auburn hosts Alabama A&M, which has a gaudy 7–3 record but plays in the weak SWAC. The biggest mismatch has to be Western Carolina vs. Alabama. The Catamounts are 1–9 and are allowing 519.8 yards and 40.0 points per game. It’s a safe bet that Alabama will bounce back from its only loss of the season with a comfortable win.
6. Can Vanderbilt do the unthinkable — end the season with a winning SEC record?
There have been a lot of firsts at Vanderbilt this season. Among the highlights: The Commodores have become bowl-eligibile for the second-straight season for the first time in school history; they recorded their first SEC shutout since 1968; and they have won three straight on the road in the SEC for the first time ever. Another significant milestone can be reached with a victory over Tennessee on Saturday — a winning record in the SEC. This has happened only one time since 1959, when Whit Taylor led the Dores to a 4–2 mark in league play in 1982. Since the SEC expanded in 1992, Vanderbilt has won more than two conference games only twice, 2005 (3–5) and 2008 (4–4).
7. Can the Tennessee defense step up?
Tennessee is allowing an average of 511.2 yards and 43.7 points in SEC games — staggering numbers for a program that has produced so many great defensive players over the past two decades. This weekend, the Vols face a Vanderbilt team that has some nice weapons but is far from an offensive juggernaut. The Commodores have scored 67 points over the last two weeks (in wins at Kentucky and Ole Miss) but had scored 19 or fewer in their first five SEC games. Tennessee’s suspect secondary will be challenged by the league’s most productive wide receiver duo — Jordan Matthews (1,003 yards) and Chris Boyd (686 yards). Historically, the Vols have made life very difficult on the Commodores. Tennessee has only lost to Vanderbilt once since 1982 and has only allowed the Dores to score more than 28 points once (in 2004) since 1987. This season, however, has defied history — for both schools.
8. Can Dorial Green-Beckham finish strong?
He’s had some big catches, but it’s fair to say that Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation’s top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2012, hasn’t been quite as productive as most expected. In nine games, DGB has caught 22 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. His most productive game was against Florida two weeks ago, when he caught six passes for 73 yards, but his biggest catch came last week in the overtime win at Tennessee. Facing 4th-and-12 from the 25-yard line with under one minute to play, Mizzou quarterback James Franklin found Green-Beckham alone in the corner of the end zone for a game-tying touchdown. DGB added a 10-yard touchdown reception in the third overtime. With two regular-season games remaining, plus a potential bowl game, Missouri would love to see Green-Beckham close his rookie campaign on a strong note.
9. Can Joker Phillips win his last game at Commonwealth Stadium?
Joker Phillips will coach his last game in Lexington on Saturday against Samford. It will be an emotional day for a man who has spent the majority of his adult life at the University of Kentucky. The Franklin, Ky., native played for the Cats from 1981-84 and served on the UK staff in some capacity for 19 of his 25 years in coaching. Phillips has a 12–23 record overall and a 4–19 mark in the SEC in his two-plus seasons as the head coach. The high-water mark of his tenure was a 10–7 win over Tennessee — the program’s first over the Vols since 1984 — in the final week of the 2011 season. The low point had to be a 40–0 loss to Vanderbilt two weeks ago before fewer than 20,000 at Commonwealth Stadium. This Saturday, the Cats host Samford, which is 7–3 in the FBS ranks, and then close the Phillips era with a trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee.
10. Who will win the SEC rushing title?
Two freshmen have separated themselves from the field in the quest for the SEC rushing title. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, with 1,014 yards, leads Georgia true freshman tailback Todd Gurley, who has 973 yards while sharing time with fellow rookie Keith Marshall. Gurley has a slight edge in yards per carry (6.53 to 6.50), but Manziel has more touchdowns (15 to 11). Vanderbilt true freshman Brian Kimbrow leads the league in yards per carry (7.20) but only has 55 attempts. Among players with at least 100 attempts, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon tops the list with 6.61 yards per carry.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Arkansas at Miss. State
Miss. State 35-21
|Miss. State 31-28||Miss. State 27-24||Miss. State 31-24|
|W. Carolina at Alabama||
|Jacksonville St. at Florida||
|Wofford at South Carolina||S. Carolina 38-10||S. Carolina 31-7||
S. Carolina 41-17
|S. Carolina 31-13|
|Ga. Southern at Georgia||
|Alabama A&M at Auburn||
|Ole Miss at LSU||
|Sam Houston St. at Texas A&M||
Texas A&M 42-13
|Texas A&M 41-10||
Texas A&M 56-20
|Texas A&M 48-10|
|Syracuse at Missouri||
|Tennessee at Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt 28-24||Vanderbilt 31-28||
|Samford at Kentucky||
College football's Week 12 schedule is highlighted by two huge battles in the Pac-12. Stanford visits Oregon in a game that likely will decide the South Division champion, while USC makes the short trip to UCLA for the game of the year in the South.
Stanford (+20.5) at Oregon
It’s a testament to Oregon’s dominance that the Ducks are favored by nearly three touchdowns against the second-best team in the Pac-12 North — and maybe the second-best team in the entire league. Stanford has been solid in 2012, with an overall mark of 8–2 and a 6–1 record in the league. Oregon, however, has been completely dominant. Consider the following: The Ducks have won their seven Pac-12 games by an average margin of 33.7 points and are outgaining their opponents by 161.8 yards per game. USC is the only team that has made Oregon sweat, but the Ducks still led by 10 points or more for all but six minutes in their 62–51 win at the L.A. Coliseum. Stanford will have to run the ball effectively against Oregon’s ordinary rush defense (fifth in the league) and hope to force some turnovers.
Ohio State (+3) at Wisconsin
Wisconsin wrapped up a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game with an emphatic 62–14 win at Indiana on Saturday. The Badgers rushed for an astounding 564 yards and seven touchdowns, led by Montee Ball (198 yards) and James White (161). UW’s dominance on the ground allowed the coaching staff to protect quarterback Curt Phillips, an oft-injured fifth-year senior who was making his first career start. Phillips only attempted seven passes for the entire game. The Badgers figure to need some semblance of offensive balance against Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes rank 16th nationally in rushing defense, though they did give up 223 yards on the ground to Nebraska and 224 to California. Ohio State has a two-game lead on Wisconsin in the Leaders Division but is not eligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions.
Ohio State 24–20
USC (-4) at UCLA
USC has been arguably the most disappointing team in the nation in 2012. UCLA has been one of the biggest surprises. The result: UCLA is one-half game up on its cross-town rival in the Pac-12 South and controls its own destiny to play in the league title game. The Bruins’ roster isn’t stocked with elite players but does have star power at two crucial positions — quarterback (Brett Hundley) and tailback (Johnathan Franklin). Hundley, a redshirt freshman, ranks second in the Pac-12 in total offense (301.1 ypg), and Franklin, a senior, ranks sixth nationally in rushing (127.0 ypg). The key for UCLA, however, will be on defense, where the Bruins must find a way to slow down the USC passing attack. UCLA ranks 103rd in the nation in pass defense and has given up 22 pass plays of 30 yards or more, the most in the Pac-12. That number figures to increase after Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are done with the UCLA secondary.
Rutgers (+6.5) at Cincinnati
Rutgers is the only unbeaten team in Big East play after Louisville’s loss on Saturday at Syracuse. The Scarlet Knights, though, have the toughest remaining schedule of the contenders, with trips to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and a home game with Louisville. A bigger concern for coach Kyle Flood has to be his team’s performance of late. The Knights lost at home to Kent State two weeks ago and then struggled with Army this past weekend. Rutgers was outgained 337-to-252 and didn’t hold its first lead until midway through the fourth quarter. Cincinnati rolled past Temple 34–10 in Brendon Kay’s first start at quarterback. Kay, a senior who beat out Munchie Legaux, completed 13-of-21 for 244 yards and two touchdowns and added 71 yards on the ground. The Bearcats are playing good football and are the better team.
Duke (+12.5) at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has played its way into the ACC Coastal Division race with consecutive wins at Maryland and North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets, 4–3 in the league, need to beat Duke this Saturday and then for Duke to beat Miami the following week. That would leave Tech all alone in first place with a 5–3 record. Duke controls its own destiny but needs to win at Georgia Tech and beat Miami at home to claim its first-ever division crown. Duke’s first order of business is finding a way to slow down Georgia Tech’s powerful offense. The Jackets rushed for 380 yards and seven touchdowns and threw for 208 yards and one score (on only seven completions) in a 68–50 win at North Carolina on Saturday. This is not a good matchup for a Duke team that ranks 85th in the nation in rushing defense and has given up an average of 43.8 points in its last four games.
Georgia Tech 44–30
Northwestern (+6.5) at Michigan State
Northwestern is 7–3 overall and has had double-digit leads in the second half of all three losses — at Penn State, vs. Nebraska and at Michigan. This team could easily be in thick of the Legends Division race. Michigan State, a preseason top-20 team, has been a big disappointment in 2012. The Spartans are 5–5 overall and tied for last place in the Legends with a 2–4 record. The culprit has been an offense that is averaging only 19.7 points per game. Running back Le’Veon Ball has done his part, averaging 106.5 yards in Big Ten games, but Andrew Maxwell simply hasn’t been good enough at the quarterback position. The stout Spartan defense will pose some problems for Northwestern’s run-based offense, but Michigan State will have trouble scoring enough points to win this game — even at home.
Oklahoma (-10.5) at West Virginia
This was expected to be one of the marquee games in the Big 12 this season. But that was before we knew just how bad West Virginia would be at preventing their opponents from gaining yards and scoring points. In league play, the Mountaineers are giving up an average of 517.8 yards and 51.0 points per game. Last weekend, Oklahoma State became the third team this season to score at least 55 points against WVU. Oklahoma could be the fourth. The Sooners have scored 35 points or more in all but one league game, a 24–19 loss to Kansas State in September. Landry Jones isn’t having a Heisman-worthy season, but the senior quarterback is averaging just under 300 yards passing per game and has 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. It will be a shock if he doesn’t have at least 20 touchdowns after Saturday’s trip to Morgantown.
UCF (+3) at Tulsa
These two teams likely will meet again in the Conference USA title game in a few weeks, with the winner serving as the host. Tulsa hasn’t missed a beat since Todd Graham bolted for Pittsburgh two years ago. Bill Blankenship, who coached in the high school ranks until 2005, is 13–1 in C-USA since taking over at his alma mater. The Golden Hurricane have two losses in 2012, at Iowa State by 15 and at Arkansas by four. UCF, too, has only lost to AQ conference teams, by 15 at Ohio State and by five at home to Missouri. The Knights struggled at home against a bad Southern Miss team in mid-October, but have been very impressive against the rest of the league.
Ole Miss (+18.5) at LSU
Ole Miss is now 0-for-2 in its attempts to become bowl-eligible. The Rebels appeared to be in control Saturday night against Vanderbilt after taking a 23–6 lead early in the third quarter, but the Commodores stormed back to claim a 27–26 win on a touchdown with just over one minute to play. Ole Miss has played well in recent trips to Baton Rouge: The Rebels are 4–4 in their last eight at Tiger Stadium with three of the losses coming by three points or fewer and the other by seven points. LSU has played well offensively the past two weeks, due in large part to the improved play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. In his first four SEC games, Mettenberger completed 46.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions; in his last two games, he has completed 66.2 percent with three touchdowns and no picks.
Syracuse (+4) at Missouri
This is a strange late-season non-conference game between two 5–5 teams searching for a sixth win to become bowl-eligible. There is far more pressure on Missouri, who still has to play at Texas A&M, to win this game. Syracuse, on the other hand, ends the season with Temple, which has lost four straight. This team will still get its sixth win at some point. Syracuse is coming off its best performance of the season, a surprisingly easy 45–26 victory at home against previously undefeated Louisville. The Orange ran for 278 yards and threw for 246, and have now had at least 475 yards in each of their last five games. Missouri won its first SEC road game last week — 51–48 in four overtimes at Tennessee — despite giving up 432 passing yards. That has to be a concern for Gary Pinkel and his staff. Syracuse, as mentioned, as been on a roll offensively, and quarterback Ryan Nassib has been productive all season.
Last week: 9–1 overall (8–2 against the spread)
Season: 75–35 overall (59–51 against the spread)
There was a huge upset in the SEC over the weekend, but not a lot changes in our power rankings. Alabama held on to its No. 1 spot — even after losing at home to Texas A&M — due to its body of work throughout the 2012 season. Vanderbilt and Ole Miss switched spots after the Commodores beat the Rebels in Oxford, and Missouri jumped Tennessee following its four OT win in Knoxville.
Post-Week 11 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel was terrific in Texas A&M’s thrilling 29–24 win over No. 1 Alabama. The redshirt freshman completed 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns and added 92 yards on the ground. Manziel leads the SEC in rushing and total offense and ranks fourth in passing efficiency.
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron’s status on the this list is in jeopardy. The junior quarterback threw for a season-high 309 yards on Saturday, but he was intercepted twice as the Crimson Tide lost at home to Texas A&M. He has 2,158 yards with 20 touchdowns and two interceptions for the season.
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia — Murray has been solid throughout his junior season. He has thrown for 2,656 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he leads the league with 9.7 yards per attempt.
Post-Week 11 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney’s productivity has been down a bit of late due to nagging injuries, but he is still the best defensive player in the league. He had two tackles and one sack in the Gamecocks’ win over Arkansas on Saturday. For the season, the sophomore defensive end has 42 total tackles (17 for a loss) with 9.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones continues to shine for the Bulldogs. He had four tackles with two sacks on Saturday against Auburn and now has 17 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks for the season.
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M — The junior defensive end recorded five tackles and one sack in the Aggies’ win at Alabama. He continues to lead the SEC in tackles for a loss with 20.0 and sacks with 12.5.
Post-Week 11 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — It helps to have one of the most electric players in college football running the show, but Sumlin deserves a ton of credit for the Aggies’ 5–2 SEC record. They have two close losses at home to top-10 teams (Florida and LSU) and on Saturday knocked off a No. 1 team for only the second time in school history.
2. James Franklin, Vanderbilt — The Commodores are bowl-eligible for the second straight season for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt rallied from 17 down in the second half to beat Ole Miss 27–26 for its fourth straight win overall and its fourth SEC win of the season.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators aren’t exactly playing their best ball of late, but Muschamp has this program back among the nation’s elite. Last year, in his first on the job, Florida went 3–5 in the SEC. This year, the Gators went 7–1.
Post-Week 11 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (9–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 10 result: Lost to Texas A&M 29–24
Alabama’s hopes for a second straight national title took a huge hit Saturday afternoon with a 29–24 loss at home to surging Texas A&M. The Aggies jumped on the Tide early, scoring three first quarter touchdowns — on drives of 87, 41 and 80 yards — against a defense that had surrendered a total of 10 touchdowns in its first nine games. Alabama has now given up a total of 853 yards in its last two games — a win at LSU and a loss to Texas A&M — after not allowing more than 300 yards in any of its first eight games. The Tide also have lost the turnover battle in the past two games, 2-to-0 to LSU and 3-to-0 to A&M on Saturday. Quarterback AJ McCarron, who did not throw a pick in the first nine games, was intercepted twice by the Aggies. The junior quarterback has dropped from first to seventh nationally in passing efficiency in the past two weeks. Alabama must now beat Auburn in two weeks to wrap up the SEC West title.
Next week: Western Carolina
2. Georgia (9–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 10 result: Beat Auburn 38–0
Georgia clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game for a second straight season and kept alive its slim national title hopes with a 38–0 win at Auburn. The Bulldogs’ offense operated at high efficiency, with Aaron Murray completing 18-of-24 for 208 yards and three touchdowns, and both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall rushing for more than 100 yards. The Georgia defense shut down Auburn’s running game, allowing a net of 57 yards rushing on 27 attempts. Georgia, which hosts Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech in the next two weeks, is 14–2 in the SEC over the last two seasons. The Dawgs, ranked No. xx in the latest BCS standings, need to beat Alabama (the likely opponent) in the SEC title game and hope that two of the three undefeated teams lose in the next two weeks.
Next week: Georgia Southern
3. Florida (9–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 10 result: Beat UL Lafayette 27–20
Florida averted disaster with a huge play on special teams in the final seconds. The Gators broke a 20–20 tie when Jelani Jenkins returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining the game. Once again, the Florida offense struggled. The Gators managed only 311 total yards and two offensive touchdowns against a ULL defense that gave up 50 points two weeks ago against Arkansas State and 65 points to Oklahoma State in a Week 3 loss. Quarterback Jeff Driskel was having a solid game (13-of-16 for 98 yards, 76 yards rushing) before leaving with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. Jacoby Brissett came on in relief and completed 6-of-8 for 64 yards. Florida, ranked No. X in the BCS standings, ends the season with non-conference games against Jacksonville State and Florida State.
Next week: Jacksonville State
4. LSU (8–2, 4–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 10 result: Beat Mississippi State 37–17
LSU broke open a close game in the second half to beat Mississippi State for the 11th-straight time in Baton Rouge. MSU cut what was a 10-point lead at the half to three with a touchdown on its first drive of the third quarter, but LSU scored the game’s final 17 points. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was sharp for the second straight game, completing 19-of-30 passes for 273 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Tigers rushed for 119 yards on 38 attempts, spreading the carries between Jeremy Hill (15), Russell Shepard (eight), Kenny Hilliard (five) and Spencer Ware (five). Hill, who had 48 yards, had his streak of 100-yard games snapped at three. The LSU defense gave up a season-high 304 yards passing but did not allow State to get much going on the ground. Nick Griffin led the Bulldogs with 38 yards on 11 attempts.
Next week: Ole Miss
5. Texas A&M (8–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 10 result: Beat Alabama 29–24
Playing on the biggest stage of his young career, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel delivered a performance that will go down in Aggie lore. The redshirt freshman completed 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 92 yards rushing to lead A&M to a stunning 29–24 win over No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies stormed out to a 20–0 lead in the first quarter on the strength of three long touchdown drives. Their offense stalled for much of the second half, but they came up with a huge defensive stop inside the 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter to preserve one of the biggest wins in school history. With Manziel running the show, Texas A&M is averaging an astounding 531.9 yards in SEC play — and that includes games against three of the top-five defensive teams in the nation (Alabama, LSU and Florida).
Next week: Sam Houston State
6. South Carolina (8–2, 6–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 10 result: Beat Arkansas 38–10
South Carolina completed its second straight SEC season with a 6–2 record by snapping a three-game losing streak to Arkansas. Playing for the first time without injured tailback Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks struggled to run the ball with consistency. Mike Davis was solid, averaging 4.1 yards on his 13 carries, but Carolina’s other ball-carriers netted only 58 yards on 28 carries. Connor Shaw was productive in the passing game, throwing for 272 yards on only 22 attempts with two touchdowns and one interception. The total yards were close (383 for South Carolina to 360 for Arkansas), but the Gamecocks won the turnover battle 3-to-1 and were far more efficient on third down (7-of-13).
Next week: Wofford
7. Mississippi State (7–3, 3–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 10 result: Lost to LSU 37–17
Mississippi State dropped its third straight game — all against ranked opponents — to fall to .500 in SEC play. The Bulldog offense, which scored 27 points or more in its seven wins, has now scored 17 points or fewer in each of the last three games. State had success throwing the ball for most of the night, recording 304 yards on 27 completions, but the running game stalled. Starting tailback LaDarius Perkins missed his first career game after straining a quad during practice earlier in the week. Nick Griffin stepped in as the primary ball-carrier and rushed for 38 yards on 11 carries. The Bulldogs have now lost 13 straight to LSU, though they did hold a lead (7–0) for the first time in Tiger Stadium since 1994.
Next week: Arkansas
8. Vanderbilt (6–4, 4–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 10 result: Beat Ole Miss 27–26
Vanderbilt rallied from 17 points down in the second half to beat Ole Miss 27–26 Saturday night in Oxford. The Commodores have now won four straight games overall and are bowl-eligible for the second straight season — for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt was forced to play the majority of the game without senior tailback Zac Stacy, who went down with a knee injury on the first possession. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers overcame a slow start and ended the night with 267 yards and two touchdowns. He hit sophomore wide receiver Chris Boyd on a 26-yard pass down the sideline to give the Dores their first lead with 1:09 to play. Jordan Matthews, the other half of the SEC’s most productive wide receiving duo, caught nine passes for 153 yards and now has 1,003 yards for the season. Vanderbilt has won three straight and six of the past eight against Ole Miss.
Next week: Tennessee
9. Ole Miss (5–5, 2–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 10 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 27–26
Ole Miss is now 0-for-2 in its attempts to become bowl-eligible. The Rebels appeared to be in control Saturday night against Vanderbilt after taking a 23–6 lead early in the third quarter, but the Commodores stormed back to claim a 27–26 win on a touchdown with just over one minute to play. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace threw for a career-high 403 yards — against a team that entered the game ranked third nationally in pass defense — but the Rebels’ offense repeatedly stalled in the Red Zone. Bryson Rose kicked four field goals, three from 28 yards or shorter. Four Ole Miss receivers caught at least five passes, with Ja-Mes Logan leading the way with career highs in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (160). Ole Miss will have two more opportunities — at LSU and vs. Mississippi State — to pick up win No. 6.
Next week: at LSU
10. Arkansas (4–6, 2–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 10 result: Lost to South Carolina 38–20
Arkansas recorded 360 total yards but scored only one offensive touchdown in the game’s first 59 minutes en route to their first loss against South Carolina since 2008. The Hogs, who dropped to 2–4 in the SEC, were undone by three turnovers — two picks thrown by Tyler Wilson and a fumble by tailback Dennis Johnson. Wilson, who threw for 277 yards, has been intercepted five times in the past three games. Tailback Knile Davis missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Arkansas, a preseason top-15 team, needs to win its final two games (at Mississippi State, vs. LSU) to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: at Mississippi State
11. Missouri (5–5, 2–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 10 result: beat Tennessee 51–48 (4ot)
Missouri picked up its first SEC road win in dramatic fashion, outlasting Tennessee in four overtimes. The Tigers were completely dominated in first half — UT held a 383-to-64 advantage in total yards — but trailed by only 14 points at the break. Mizzou eventually tied the game late in the fourth quarter when James Franklin found Dorial Green-Beckham in the end zone on fourth down from the Tennessee 25-yard line. Missouri won the game in the fourth overtime on an Andrew Baggett a 35-yard field goal. Franklin completed only 2-of-8 for 18 yards in the first half but ended the game 19-of-32 with 226 yards and four touchdowns (three in overtime). Kendial Lawrence ran for 153 yards and two scores — a 77-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half and a 2-yard plunge late in the third quarter. Missouri needs to split its final two games — vs. Syracuse, at Texas A&M — to become bowl-eligible for the eighth straight season.
Next week: Syracuse
12. Tennessee (4–6, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 10 result: Lost to Missouri 51–48 (4ot)
Tennessee lost in SEC play for the 13th time in its last 14 games, falling at home in four overtimes to a Missouri team that had scored 10 points or fewer in four of its five previous league games. The Vols dominated the first half, outgaining Missouri 383-to-64, but were unable to build a lead larger than 14 points at anytime in the game. Quarterback Tyler Bray continues to shine in tough times for Tennessee. The junior threw for 404 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and now has 1,302 yards in the last three games. The loss dropped Tennessee to 0–6 in the SEC and is a crippling blow for third-year head coach Derek Dooley. He is now 15–20 overall and 4–18 in SEC games at Tennessee.
Next week: at Vanderbilt
13. Auburn (2–8, 0–7 SEC)
Last week's rank: 13
Week 10 result: Lost to Georgia 38–0
Auburn put up little resistance in yet another lopsided loss in what has become a nightmare season for embattled coach Gene Chizik. The Tigers had only one drive that went for more than 50 yards and were outgained by more than 250 yards. There was one bright spot: Quarterback Jonathan Wallace, in his first start vs. an SEC opponent, completed 15-of-22 passes for 181 yards. Not bad for a true freshman who was used exclusively in Wildcat packages for the first half of the season. Auburn ranks 115th in the nation in total offense (298.5 ypg) and 90th in total defense (435.6 ypg) — stunning numbers for a program that won a national title two years ago. The Tigers figure to get back in the win column next week against Alabama A&M, but then close the season with a trip to Tuscaloosa.
Next week: Alabama A&M
14. Kentucky (1–9, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 10 result: Bye
The big news at Kentucky last week was the dismissal of Joker Phillips, who is 4–19 in his two-plus seasons as the head coach at his alma mater. Phillips will coach the final two games of the season, vs. Samford this weekend and at Tennessee on Nov. 24.
Next week: Samford
College football’s Week 11 schedule is highlighted by key games in the Big Ten Legends Division, Pac-12 North and SEC West. Also, Georgia can clinch the SEC East with a win at Auburn, and Miami can take another step toward an ACC Coastal Division crown with a victory at Virginia.
No. 51 Pittsburgh at No. 87 Connecticut
Pittsburgh just missed pulling off the upset of the year in South Bend last weekend. The Panthers are playing better as the season progresses, but it’s not a good sign when your defense gives up 291 yards passing to Notre Dame.
No. 14 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama is riding high after its thrilling win in Baton Rouge, but Nick Saban can’t be pleased that his defense gave up a season-high 435 yards — 232 more than its previous season average — to an LSU team that had averaged only 318.3 yards in its first four SEC games. The Crimson Tide can wrap up the SEC West title with a win.
No. 2 Oregon at No. 74 California
Cal is 2–5 in the Pac-12 and still has to play two teams (Oregon and Oregon State) that are a combined 11–1 in the league. The Bears also have issues at quarterback; starter Zach Maynard is questionable for this week’s game after injuring his knee against Washington.
No. 3 Kansas State at No. 28 TCU
Kansas State held on to its No. 2 spot in the BCS standings after knocking off Oklahoma State 44–30 last weekend. But the big story in Manhattan is the health of Collin Klein, the Heisman frontrunner. Klein was forced out in the third quarter of the O-State game with an undisclosed injury that has been reported by some to be a concussion. K-State coach Bill Snyder says he expect Klein to play, but Snyder has been known to bend the truth on the injury front.
Kansas State 34–21
No. 4 Notre Dame at No. 94 Boston College
Amazingly, Boston College won six straight in this series from 2001-08 (they didn’t play every year), but Notre Dame has rebounded to win three straight. BC has scored 17 points or fewer in its last four vs. Notre Dame. That trend will continue.
Notre Dame 27–3
No. 6 Georgia at No. 72 Auburn
Georgia can secure a spot in the SEC title game for the second straight season with a win on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be facing a true freshman quarterback (Jonathan Wallace) who will be making his first start against an SEC team.
No. 76 UL Lafayette at No. 7 Florida
The Gators would like to get Mike Gillislee going for the stretch drive. The senior tailback has had four straight sub-100-yard games and still needs 203 yards to become Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004.
No. 25 Mississippi State at No. 8 LSU
In the past two weeks, MSU has dropped from 48th to 73rd nationally in total offense and from 25th to 50th in total defense. There is no shame in losing decisively at Alabama, but the Bulldogs were alarmingly uncompetitive at home against Texas A&M. The task this week will be to do something that no Bulldog team has done since 1991 — win in Baton Rouge.
No. 45 Arkansas at No. 9 South Carolina
The Hogs have won three straight in the series, the last two in convincing fashion against very good Carolina teams. Two years ago, Ryan Mallet, Knile Davis & Co. rolled up 443 yards of offense in a 41¬–20 victory in Columbia. Last season, Tyler Wilson and friends outgained the Gamecocks 435-to-207 en route to a 44–28 win in Fayetteville. Now, it’s time for payback.
South Carolina 33–17
No. 79 Maryland at No. 11 Clemson
Shawn Petty, who was a linebacker two weeks ago, played relatively well in his debut as Maryland’s quarterback. He completed 9-of-18 for 115 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Not bad. But not good enough to challenge Clemson.
No. 43 Baylor at No. 12 Oklahoma
Baylor is the only team in the nation that is giving up more than 500 yards per game. That is not good.
No. 13 Oregon State at No. 16 Stanford
Redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan will make his first start at quarterback for Stanford. In last week’s 48–0 win over Washington State, Hogan replaced Josh Nunes after two series and went on to complete 18-of-23 for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 15 Louisville at No. 63 Syracuse
Louisville is ranked No. 9 in the latest BCS standings, but the Cardinals — other than being 9–0 — don’t really have the résumé of a top-10 team. They beat FIU (2–8) by seven points, Southern Miss (0–9) by four points and South Florida (3–6) by two points. They have two solid wins, over North Carolina and Cincinnati, but those were by a combined eight points and both were at home.
No. 17 UCLA at No. 100 Washington State
It’s fair to say Washington State isn’t running the ball well this season. The Cougars have a total of 76 rushing yards in six Pac-12 games. Colorado is next with 576 yards.
No. 27 Penn State at No. 18 Nebraska
Nebraska has seized control of the Leaders Division with consecutive wins over Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State. The Cornhuskers, 4–1 in the league, are one game up on both Northwestern and Michigan and now hold the tie-breaker over both teams.
No. 34 Iowa State at No. 19 Texas
Texas will open the game in the Wishbone to honor former Longhorn coach Darrell Royal, who passed away earlier this week. Royal went 167–47–5 in 20 seasons as the boss in Austin.
No. 31 Northwestern at No. 20 Michigan
Northwestern tailback Venric Mark had 23 carries in his first two seasons. This year, Mark has emerged as the Wildcats’ top offensive weapon with 1,072 yards on a healthy 6.5-yard average.
No. 21 Louisiana Tech at No. 112 Texas State
Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes will be a hot commodity in the coaching world following the 2012 season. And for good reason. His teams win and do so playing an exciting brand of football.
Louisiana Tech 41, Texas State 13
No. 37 Arizona State at No. 22 USC
USC has given up a total of 1,318 yards in its last two games, losses at Arizona and to Oregon at home.
No. 81 Kansas at No. 23 Texas Tech
Texas Tech gave up a total of 43 points in its first four games. The Raiders have given up 41 or more three times since. That, however, won’t happen this week.
Texas Tech 47–10
No. 99 Colorado at No. 24 Arizona
Colorado has allowed 55 touchdowns this season, most in the nation. Alabama has allowed 82 points this season.
No. 107 Army at No. 26 Rutgers
Army is the only team in the nation that has two players averaging over 100 yards rushing per game — quarterback Trent Steelman (101.2 ypg) and slot back Raymond Maples (100.8 ypg).
No. 29 Wisconsin at No. 67 Indiana
Amazingly, this game — between two teams with a combined nine overall losses — could determine who represents the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game.
No. 33 West Virginia at No. 30 Oklahoma State
Things have changed quite a bit in the past month for West Virginia. In early October, the Mountaineers were 5–0 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Now, WVU is 5–3, unranked and a 7.5-point underdog to an Oklahoma State team that also has three losses.
Oklahoma State 48–40
No. 61 Utah at No. 32 Washington
Utah has scored a total of 98 points in the past two weeks, climbing from 105th in the nation in scoring (20.1 ppg) to 72nd (26.6 ppg). Washington’s defense has played well of late, holding Oregon State to 17 and California to 13 in back-to-back wins.
No. 41 Vanderbilt at No. 38 Ole Miss
Vanderbilt has controlled this series of late, winning five of the last seven overall, including two straight in Oxford. Last year, the Commodores won 30–7 in Nashville for their most decisive win vs. Ole Miss since beating the Rebs 91–0 in 1915.
No. 71 Georgia Tech at No. 39 North Carolina
North Carolina tailback Gio Bernard has been one of the best running backs in the nation in the past month. The sophomore has 717 yards and six touchdowns in the past four games.
North Carolina 31–23
No. 40 Miami (Fla.) at No. 83 Virginia
Virginia snapped a six-game losing streak last week with a surprisingly easy 33–6 win at NC State. Miami controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal. If the Canes beat Virginia this week and win at Duke on Nov. 24, they will advance to the league title game.
Miami (Fla.) 21–13
No. 42 Cincinnati at No. 84 Temple
Temple exploded for 37 points in its Big East opener (a win vs. South Florida) but has not scored more than 17 points since. The Owls are last in the league in total offense, as well.
No. 56 Missouri at No. 44 Tennessee
Tennessee’s historically bad defense is coming off its worst game of the season. The Volunteers gave up an astounding 721 yards of offense to a Troy team that had 381 yards the previous week in a loss to FAU. For the season, the Vols rank last in the league in both yards allowed per game (483.1) and yards allowed per play (6.31).
No. 46 Tulsa at No. 90 Houston
Tulsa is the only team in Conference USA West with a winning overall record. The Golden Hurricane are 7–2 with losses at Iowa State and Arkansas.
No. 47 Boise State at No. 120 Hawaii
Boise State, which lost at home to San Diego State last weekend, has multiple regular-season losses for the first time since 2007.
Boise State 48–0
No. 50 Kent State at No. 97 Miami (Ohio)
Kent State has almost doubled its scoring average from last season. The Golden Flashes are averaging 34.0 points per game — up from 17.1 last season.
Kent State 34–23
No. 122 Idaho at No. 54 BYU
BYU dips down in competition this week after playing Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in successive games. The Cougars should have this one wrapped up by the middle of the second quarter.
No. 80 Wake Forest at No. 55 NC State
NC State had one of the most puzzling losses of the season last week, dropping a 33–6 decision at home to a Virginia team that had lost six straight games.
NC State 34–17
No. 57 UCF at No. 102 UTEP
UCF is in control of C-USA East with a 5–0 record. The Knights have allowed exactly 17 points in each of their last three games.
No. 58 Fresno State at No. 88 Nevada
Nevada is averaging 33.3 points in its three losses — to South Florida, San Diego State and Air Force. The Wolf Pack will need to score a bunch to beat Fresno State, which has scored 42 points in each of its last three games.
Fresno State 42–41
No. 95 Air Force at No. 59 San Diego State
San Diego State is coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, a 21–19 victory at Boise State. It was SDSU’s first win over a ranked opponent since 1996. The Aztecs are now 5–1 in the MWC and will be favored in their final two games.
San Diego State 33–17
No. 64 San Jose State at No. 123 New Mexico State
San Jose State visits Las Cruces for a tune-up before returning home for a tough two-game stretch against BYU and Louisiana Tech.
San Jose State 44–10
No. 65 Navy at No. 85 Troy
Troy rolled up 721 yards of offense on the road against an SEC team — and lost. The Trojans took a 48–41 lead on Tennessee with 3:14 remaining but gave up two touchdowns in the final three minutes and lost 55–48.
No. 77 Purdue at No. 68 Iowa
Neither of these teams has won a game since Oct. 13, when Iowa somehow beat Michigan State on the road. Purdue has lost five straight — all in league play and all by seven points or more.
No. 69 Minnesota at No. 98 Illinois
These are two of the four Big Ten teams that are ranked 68th or worse in this week’s Athlon Sports 124 rankings. Minnesota has shown signs of life this year. Illinois has been a complete debacle.
No. 117 FAU at No. 73 Western Kentucky
FAU beat a team two weeks ago (Troy) that rolled up 721 yards of offense at Tennessee last Saturday. What does that mean? Probably nothing.
Western Kentucky 31–13
No. 82 Marshall at No. 104 UAB
Marshall is one of 11 teams nationally that has allowed more than 2,000 yards rushing this season. It’s a good thing for the Herd that UAB ranks 11th in Conference USA in rushing with 111.0 yards per game.
No. 86 Western Michigan at No. 108 Buffalo
Buffalo ranks last in the nation with only six turnovers forced — two fumbles and four interceptions. That’s a big reason the Bulls rank 85th nationally in scoring defense despite ranking 49th in total defense.
No. 111 Southern Miss at No. 89 SMU
Southern Miss’ dreadful 2012 season took another horrific turn last weekend. The Golden Eagles led UAB 16–0 at the half at home yet found a way to lose, 27–19. Ellis Johnson’s team is now an unthinkable 0–9 — one year winning 12 games.
No. 101 UNLV at No. 119 Colorado State
UNLV played its best game of the season last weekend, passing for 289 yards and rushing for 241 in a 35–7 win over New Mexico. There has been talk about Bobby Hauck’s job status, but there is a decent chance the Runnin’ Rebels could end their season on a four-game winning streak.
No. 103 Tulane at No. 118 Memphis
Tulane scored a total of 45 points in its first five games. The Green Wave have scored 102 in their last two.
No. 113 Wyoming at No. 105 New Mexico
New Mexico ranks last in the nation in passing yards (535), passing yards per attempt (4.6) and passing touchdowns (two). To be fair, the Lobos are running the option, but that is still alarmingly low production.
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 106 North Texas
North Texas doesn’t do very much well, but the Mean Green are outstanding at not letting the opposition sack the quarterback. They’ve allowed five in nine games; only three teams (Air Force, Oklahoma State and Tennessee) have allowed fewer.
North Texas 17–10
No. 110 Central Michigan at No. 115 Eastern Michigan
Dan Enos is on thin ice in Mount Pleasant. He might be gone if the Chips lose to their rivals from Ypsilanti.
Central Michigan 34–33
No. 124 UMass at No. 114 Akron
These two MAC East teams are a combined 1–19, with the one win coming by Akron over Morgan State in Week 3. UMass has been outscored 136–7 in the last three games.
McNeese State at No. 116 UTSA
McNeese State opened the season with a win at Middle Tennessee, which is now 6–2 against FBS competition. This will be a tough test for Larry Coker’s club.
Last week: 42–11
College football’s Week 11 slate is highlighted by a key matchup in the Pac-12 North (Oregon State visits Stanford), an intriguing showdown in the SEC West (Texas A&M travels to Alabama) and several key games in the Big Ten.
Oregon State (+5) at Stanford
Oregon is the clear favorite in the Pac-12 North, but Oregon State and Stanford are both 5–1 in the league and both teams still have a date with the Ducks. So the winner of this game will have an opportunity to play its way into the second Pac-12 title game. The other storyline is the quarterback situation at both schools. In Stanford’s 48–0 win over Colorado last week, redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan replaced Josh Nunes after two series and went on to complete 18-of-23 for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Coach David Shaw named Hogan as the starter earlier this week. At Oregon State, Cody Vaz has apparently taken over for Sean Mannion, who struggled in his one game back from a knee injury. Vaz, a junior, threw for 267 yards and three scores in a 10-point win over Arizona State on Saturday night. It’s rare that two teams this good are unsettled at quarterback this late in the season.
Texas A&M (+13.5) at Alabama
After seeing a CBS promo for the Texas A&M-Alabama game, my 8-year-old son asked the following: “Do you think Johnny Football will gain a lot of yards against Alabama?” That’s a good question: Can Johnny Manziel, who threw for 311 yards and rushed for 129 in last week’s win at Mississippi State, do his thing against the mighty Crimson Tide? Much has been made of Manziel’s “struggles” against the top defenses he has faced, but he still averaged 268 yards of total offense in losses — by a total of 10 points — to Florida and LSU. Alabama is riding high after its thrilling win in Baton Rouge, but Nick Saban can’t be pleased that his defense gave up a season-high 435 yards — 232 more than its previous season average — to an LSU team that had averaged only 318.3 yards in its first four SEC games. The Crimson Tide can wrap up the SEC West title with a win.
Wisconsin (+7) at Indiana
Amazingly, this game — between two teams with a combined nine overall losses — could determine who represents the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game. Ohio State (6–0 Big Ten) and Penn State (4–1) are the top two teams in the division, but both are ineligible to play in the title game due to NCAA sanctions. That leaves 3–2 Wisconsin, which is struggling through its worst season since 2008, and 2–3 Indiana, which has won four of it last 25 games vs. FBS competition, as the next best options. To its credit, IU is showing signs of significant improvement in Kevin Wilson’s second season in Bloomington. The Hoosiers flirted with upsets over Michigan State (lost 31–27) and Ohio State (lost 52–49) early last month before breaking through with two straight Big Ten wins, at Illinois and vs. Iowa at home. Wisconsin had a three-game winning streak snapped two weeks ago at home to Michigan State. The Badgers lost quarterback Joel Stave to a season-ending injury and will reportedly send out senior Curt Phillips, who has suffered three torn ACLs in his career.
Penn State (+7) at Nebraska
Nebraska has seized control of the Leaders Division with consecutive wins over Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State. The Cornhuskers, 4–1 in the league, are one game up on both Northwestern and Michigan and now hold the tie-breaker over both teams. Last Saturday, Nebraska rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to beat Michigan State in East Lansing. Quarterback Taylor Martinez was largely ineffective throwing the ball (16-of-36 for 160 yards with three INTs), but he rushed for 205 yards and two scores to lead a ground attack that totaled 313 yards on 40 attempts. Penn State rebounded from a 35–23 loss at home to Ohio State by drilling Purdue on the road 34–9. Matt McGloin had another big game, throwing for 321 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. McGloin will have to solve a Nebraska defense that has been very good against the pass. The Huskers rank eighth nationally in pass efficiency defense and fifth in passing yards allowed (156.0 ypg).
Kansas State (-7.5) at TCU
Kansas State held on to its No. 2 spot in the BCS standings after knocking off Oklahoma State 44–30 last weekend. But the big story in Manhattan is the health of Collin Klein, the Heisman frontrunner. Klein was forced out in the third quarter of the O-State game with an undisclosed injury that has been reported by some to be a concussion. His status for Saturday’s game in Fort Worth most likely won’t be known until game time. If Klein can’t go, redshirt freshman Daniel Sams will get the call. Sams completed 5-of-6 passes for 45 yards and ran for 20 yards in relief on Saturday. TCU has been playing with its No. 2 quarterback, Trevone Boykin, since early October. Boykin is 2–3 as a starter, with wins over Baylor and West Virginia, and losses to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Last weekend, he completed only 12-of-29 passes, but those 12 completions went for 254 yards and two touchdowns to help the Horned Frogs upset West Virginia in Morgantown. TCU’s numbers are down on defense, but this team has shown it can score points in bunches vs. most Big 12 teams.
Kansas State 34–21
Northwestern (+11) at Michigan
Northwestern is 7–2 overall and had a double-digit lead in both of its losses — at Penn State (39–28) and vs. Nebraska (29–28). The Wildcats rank 13th nationally in rushing offense (237.6 ypg) thanks in part to the emergence of tailback Venric Mark. A junior who had only 23 carries in his first two seasons, Mark has rushed for 1,072 yards and nine scores on a healthy 6.5-yard average. Michigan has a dynamic playmaker of its own in Denard Robinson, but the senior quarterback missed all of last week’s game and a large portion of the Nebraska game with an elbow injury. He is expected to play this week, but the injury could be a factor for the rest of the season. Michigan is still alive in the Legends Division race, but the Wolverines will need some help; they are tied with Nebraska at 4–1. but the Huskers have the tie-breaker and have an easier schedule.
Florida State (-13.5) at Virginia Tech (Thu)
This figured to be the game of the year in the ACC, a showdown against the overwhelming favorites in the Atlantic and Coastal. Well, Florida State has done its part, with a 5–1 league record and a top-10 national ranking. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has been a colossal disappointment, with an overall record of 4–5 and a 2–3 mark in the ACC. The Hokies’ five losses are the most since the 2003 team went 8–5; they haven’t lost six games in a season since 1992 (2–8–1). Virginia Tech hasn’t been horrible in any one area (though it ranks 91st in turnover margin), but the Hokies haven’t been good at anything, either. The usually stout defense has given up 30 points or more four times, and the running attack has been average at best. It will be a surprise if Florida State does not win this game by a comfortable margin.
Florida State 35–21
Vanderbilt (+3) at Ole Miss
It’s a huge game for two programs searching for their sixth win of the season. Vanderbilt has controlled this series of late, winning five of the last seven overall, including two straight in Oxford. Last year, the Commodores won 30–7 in Nashville for their most decisive win vs. Ole Miss since beating the Rebs 91–0 in 1915. This, however, is a much-improved Ole Miss team that has made significant progress on both sides of the ball under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. The key to this game could be quarterback Bo Wallace, a Tennessee native who is a threat with his arm and his legs. Wallace, however, has thrown nine interceptions in the Rebs’ six games against AQ conference teams. Vanderbilt must win the turnover battle and limit Wallace in the zone read — something that has been a problem for the Commodores at times.
West Virginia (+7.5) at Oklahoma State
Things have changed quite a bit in the past month for West Virginia. In early October, the Mountaineers were 5–0 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Now, WVU is 5–3, unranked and a 7.5-point underdog to an Oklahoma State team that also has three losses. The Mountaineers have allowed an average of 532.8 yards and 50.2 points in their five Big 12 games. Those numbers might be even worse after this week’s trip to Stillwater. Oklahoma State, despite injuries at the quarterback position, is averaging 509.2 yards in its five Big 12 games, second only to Baylor (589.2 ypg). The Cowboys likely won’t know who will start at quarterback until late this week; true freshman Wes Lunt, the opening day starter, was sidelined in the Kansas State game with an undisclosed injury. Junior Clint Shelf, in his first appearance of the season, stepped in and completed 16-of-27 for 233 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh was lost for the season with a torn ACL three weeks ago.
Oklahoma State 48–40
Louisville (-3) at Syracuse
Louisville is ranked No. 9 in the latest BCS standings, but the Cardinals — other than being 9–0 — don’t really have the résumé of a top-10 team. They beat FIU (2–8) by seven points, Southern Miss (0–9) by four points and South Florida (3–6) by two points. They have two solid wins, over North Carolina and Cincinnati, but those were by a combined eight points and both were at home. Syracuse is playing pretty well despite its overall mark of 4–5. Each of the Orange’s five losses has come to an AQ conference team that currently has a winning record. Syracuse’s strength is throwing the ball. Louisville’s strength — at least one of them — is stopping the pass. Whoever wins this battle will have a great chance to win the game. Go Orange in the upset.
Last week: 8–2 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 66–34 overall (51–49 against the spread)
Georgia can secure its second straight SEC East title with a win at Auburn. If the Bulldogs stumble, Florida, which has already concluded its SEC season (7–1), would make the trip to Atlanta. Alabama can wrap up the West with a victory at home against Texas A&M.
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 11
1. Can Johnny Manziel thrive against an elite defense?
Much has been made of John Manziel’s “struggles” against the top defenses he has faced, but he still averaged 268 yards of total offense in losses — by a total of eight points — to Florida and LSU. Now, he gets a stab at the mighty Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Last week, Nick Saban’s team showed signs of weakness — the Tide gave up a season-high 435 yards — in a 21–17 win in Baton Rouge, but this is still one of the top two or three defenses in the country. Manziel is fresh off a brilliant performance in Texas A&M’s 38–13 win at Mississippi State. He completed 30-of-36 passes for 311 yards and added 129 yards rushing and two scores on the ground. It was the fourth time this season that he has had at least 275 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. Manziel will be the second elite dual-threat quarterback that Alabama has played against this season. In the opener, the Tide shut down Michigan’s Denard Robinson, holding him to 227 yards of total offense, including a net of only 27 on the ground. Manziel might not be as electric running the ball — though it’s close — but he has proven to be a better passer than Robinson.
2. Can Alabama play with enough emotion this week?
Alabama remained unbeaten with a 21–17 win in Baton Rouge last Saturday night — but it was far from easy. The Crimson Tide expended a ton of energy in one of the most emotional regular-season games in recent memory. AJ McCarron, the winning quarterback, was crying on the bench before the game was even over. Nick Saban, usually one of the most stoic coaches in the game, was visibly moved during his postgame interview. True, this was only one win. But there is no denying its importance. Now, only seven days later, Saban must have the Tide ready — both physically and emotionally — to play a very good Texas A&M team that will demand their attention on both sides of the ball. Saban is a master at keeping his team focused, but it won’t be a surprise if Alabama is a bit flat this week when the Aggies roll into town.
3. Was that the real Zach Mettenberger?
There are no moral victories at LSU — that’s obvious. There were, however, some positives to come out of the Tigers’ 21–17 loss to Alabama. For the first time since he stepped foot on campus, Zach Mettenberger played like a high-level SEC quarterback. The strong-armed junior — who many expected to provide an upgrade at the quarterback position — had been a huge disappointment through the first two-thirds of the season. Prior to the Alabama game, Mettenberger had completed only 46.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown against SEC competition. What was expected to be a strength had become a liability. But somehow, some way, Mettenberger enjoyed the game of his life against the Crimson Tide. He completed 24-of-35 for 298 yards and one touchdown. He made several key throws to keep drives alive and was a big reason the Tigers converted 10-of-20 on third down — an amazing stat against a defense as strong as Alabama’s. This begs the question: Was this Mettenberger’s breakthrough performance or was it simply a (positive) blip on what will be an inconsistent career? We’ll find out over the next year-and-a-half, and his first test comes on Saturday against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge.
4. Will South Carolina snap its skid vs. Arkansas?
South Carolina has emerged as one of the top programs in the SEC in recent years. Dating back to the start of the 2010 season, the Gamecocks are 16–7 in the league, highlighted by their first-ever SEC East title in 2010. However, there is one thing South Carolina has been unable to accomplish of late — beat Arkansas, or more specifically, be competitive against Arkansas. The Hogs have won three straight in the series, the last two in convincing fashion against very good Carolina teams. Two years ago, Ryan Mallet, Knile Davis & Co. rolled up 443 yards of offense in a 41¬–20 victory in Columbia. Last season, Tyler Wilson and friends outgained the Gamecocks 435-to-207 en route to a 44–28 win in Fayetteville. Now, it’s time for payback. South Carolina is a two-touchdown favorite at home against an Arkansas team that is 4–5 overall and 2–3 in the SEC.
5. Can a bad defense (Tennessee) stop a bad offense (Missouri)?
Tennessee’s historically bad defense is coming off its worst game of the season. The Volunteers gave up an astounding 721 yards of offense to a Troy team that had 381 yards the previous week in a loss to FAU. For the season, the Vols rank last in the league in both yards allowed per game (483.1) and yards allowed per play (6.31). This week, Tennessee meets a struggling Missouri offense that has scored 15 points or less in four of its last five SEC games. James Franklin is back at quarterback for the Tigers, but he threw four interceptions in a 14–7 loss at Florida last week. Injuries have sabotaged Franklin’s first season in the SEC, starting with a shoulder issue in the spring and then continuing with a knee injury suffered against Vanderbilt in early October. Last season, Franklin rushed for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns; this year he has netted only 104 yards on the ground and has yet to run for a touchdown. Missouri clearly needs Franklin to be at his best (both running and passing) to succeed, even against a defense as bad as Tennessee’s.
6. Does Georgia have enough weapons at wide receiver to be a factor down the stretch?
Georgia is the national title contender no one is talking about. The Bulldogs are 8–1 overall and ranked No. 5 in the latest BCS standings. The Dawgs, however, have some issues at wide receiver that could hinder their ability to remain in the BCS title chase. Marlon Brown, who shares the team lead in receptions (27) and ranks second in receiving yards (469), was lost for the season with a torn ACL vs. Ole Miss. Earlier this season, Michael Bennett, who had 24 catches and four touchdowns in five games, went down with an ACL injury as well. The Dawgs still have quality at the position — Tavarres King has 27 catches for 551 yards and Malcolm Mitchell has 26 for 358 — but they are lacking in quantity. “We still have some playmakers,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week. “But Marlon and Michael were just two outstanding football players . … And they actually had a nice physicality to them at that position. We’ll miss that. Other guys are just going to have to step up and get after it.” Among the “other guys” with an opportunity to take on a larger role are junior Rantavious Wooten, who has 12 catches for 154 yards, and Chris Conley, a sophomore who has seven receptions for 84 yards.
7. Can Jonathan Wallace get the job done against an SEC defense?
Auburn true freshman Jonathan Wallace made his first start at quarterback last week and received a passing grade from the coaches for his work in the Tigers’ 42–7 win over New Mexico State. Wallace, who had been used almost exclusively in Wildcat packages earlier in the season, completed 9-of-16 passes for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Surprisingly, he only ran for nine yards on three attempts. This week, the Phenix City, Ala., native will face an SEC defense for the first time as a starting quarterback when Georgia travels to Jordan-Hare Stadium. “It’s going to be a completely different issue,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “The speed and intensity in which they blitz and move around will be completely different.” Wallace played well in relief two weeks ago vs. Texas A&M, completing 6-of-9 for 122 yards and two touchdowns while adding 71 yards on the ground.
8. Can Vanderbilt win again in Oxford?
Much to the dismay of the Rebel faithful, Vanderbilt has controlled this series of late, winning five of the last seven overall, including two straight in Oxford. In 2008, Ole Miss outgained Vanderbilt 385-to-202 yet lost 23–17 due in large part to Jevan Snead’s four interceptions. Two years, ago, one of the worst Vanderbilt teams in recent history (at least statistically) beat Jeremiah Masoli & Co. 28–14 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss’ lone win since 2006 came in Nashville in ’09 by a score of 23–7. This Saturday’s game will be the first time since 1967 these two teams have played in November. In 2001, they played on Dec. 1 after their scheduled game was postponed due to the 9/11 attacks.
9. Can Mississippi State stop the bleeding?
Just two weeks ago, Mississippi State was 7–0 and dreaming of a special season. Now, after two losses by a combined score of 76–20, the Bulldogs are 7–2 with a trip to LSU looming. In the past two weeks, MSU has dropped from 48th to 73rd nationally in total offense and from 25th to 50th in total defense. There is no shame in losing decisively at Alabama, but the Bulldogs were alarmingly uncompetitive at home against Texas A&M. The Aggies jumped out to a 24–0 lead at the half and outgained MSU 693-to-310. Mississippi State only ran 57 offensive plays, compared to 97 by Texas A&M. The task this week will be to do something that no Bulldog team has done since 1991 — win in Baton Rouge.
10. Can Florida flex its offensive muscles against UL Lafayette?
It’s hard to find too much fault with a team that concluded its SEC season with a 7–1 record in league play. But the Florida coaching staff has to be a bit concerned with the Gators’ offense. In SEC games, UF ranked 11th in the league in total offense, averaging only 328.8 yards per game. The Gators finished the SEC season with 183 yards against South Carolina (in a lopsided win), 266 against Georgia and 276 against Missouri. They had 325 yards or fewer in five of eight league games. This type of production (or lack thereof) was good enough to go 7–1 in the nation’s most difficult conference, but at some point Florida needs to start scoring points with regularity. This week’s opponent, UL Lafayette, gave up 50 points at home two weeks ago to Arkansas State and 65 points in a Week 3 loss at Oklahoma State. It will be a disappointment if Florida doesn’t score at least 40 points on Saturday.
|Week 11 SEC Predictions||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Texas A&M (+14) at Alabama
|Texas A&M 28-24||Alabama 30-21||Alabama 31-20||Alabama 34-21|
Arkansas (+14) at S. Carolina
|S. Carolina 31-14||S. Carolina 30-24||S. Carolina 34-20||S. Carolina 33-17|
Missouri (+3) at Tennessee
|Tennessee 37-28||Tennessee 31-30||Tennessee 34-27||
ULL (+26.5) at Florida
|Florida 28-10||Florida 24-10||Florida 41-13||
Georgia (-15) at Auburn
|Georgia 35-7||Georgia 34-14||Georgia 38-13||
Miss. State (+14.5) at LSU
|LSU 17-14||LSU 21-14||LSU 27-10||
Vanderbilt (+3) at Ole Miss
|Ole Miss 24-14||Ole Miss 30-27||Vanderbilt 27-24||Vanderbilt 24-20|
We almost had a change at the top in the SEC, but Alabama rallied to beat LSU in Baton Rouge and hold on to the No. 1 spot in the power rankings. LSU dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 with the loss, while Georgia climbs to from No. 3 to No. 2.
Post-Week 10 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron remains No. 1 on the list despite struggling for most of the night vs. LSU. The junior quarterback, however, came through in the clutch, directing the Tide on a five-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to take the lead in the final minutes. McCarron still has not thrown an interception in 204 attempts this season.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel and the Aggies’ offense made a respected Mississippi State defense look helpless in a 38–13 win in Starkville. Manziel completed 30-of-36 passes for 311 yards and added 129 yards rushing to lead the Aggies to their fifth road win of the season.
3. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — The true freshman doesn’t have the gaudiest stats, but he is clearly one of the SEC’s elite players. Saturday night, Yeldon scored the biggest touchdown of Alabama’s 2012 season, taking a screen pass from A.J. McCarron 28 yards for the go-ahead score with under one minute remaining in Baton Rouge. He now has 739 yards rushing (on a 7.1-yard average) and 122 yards receiving.
Post-Week 10 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — South Carolina was off on Saturday. Clowney has 40 total tackles, including 15 for a loss with 8.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones had three tackles, including one for a loss in the Bulldogs 37–10 win over Ole Miss. Jones, in only seven games (he missed two with an injury), has 52 total tackles, including 15 for a loss with 8.5 sacks. He also has one interception, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M — The junior defensive end had four tackles and one sack in the Aggies’ 38–13 win at Mississippi State. Moore leads the team with 65 total tackles and leads the SEC in both tackles for a loss (18.0) and sacks (10.5).
Post-Week 10 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — It wasn’t easy, but Saban’s team remained undefeated with a 21–17 win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Alabama, the No. 1 team in the nation, is 9–0 overall and 6–0 in the SEC.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators completed their SEC slate with a 7–1 record, the only blemish coming two weeks ago vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. Last season, Florida went 3–5 in the league, its first losing SEC record since 1986.
3. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — The Aggies have made a smooth transition to their new league under the leadership of Sumlin, who is in his first season as the boss in College Station. Texas A&M is averaging an astounding 550.8 yards of offense in SEC games.
Post-Week 10 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (9–0, 6–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 9 result: Beat LSU 21–17
They gave up 435 total yards — by far the most this season. They lost the turnover battle 2-to-0. Their quarterback completed one of his first seven passes in the second half. But the Alabama Crimson Tide won the game because they made the big plays when it mattered most. Trailing 17–14 with 1:34 to play, AJ McCarron led Alabama on a five-play, 72-yard drive that lasted less than a minute and ended with a 28-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon. McCarron went 3-of-4 on the decisive drive with completions of 18, 15, 11 and 28 yards. He only completed 11 of his other 23 attempts for 93 yards. While the Tide struggled for much of the night in the passing game, their top two tailbacks, Eddie Lacy and Yeldon, combined to rush for 159 yards on 22 carries.
Next week: Texas A&M
2. Georgia (8–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 9 result: Beat Ole Miss 37–10
Georgia is now one win away from clinching its second straight SEC East title after rallying from a 10–0 deficit to beat the much-improved Ole Miss Rebels 37–10. The Bulldogs took the lead for good on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Tavarres King in the final seconds of the first half and then seized control of the game by scoring touchdowns on drives of 79 yards and 77 yards to open the third quarter. Georgia outgained Ole Miss 533-to-234 thanks in large part to a defense that shut down the Rebels’ running attack. Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott netted 21 yards on 13 carries. The Georgia offense was led by Murray (21-of-28 for 384 with four TDs, no INTs) and tailback Todd Gurley (18 for 117).
Next week: at Auburn
3. Florida (8–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 9 result: Beat Missouri 14–7
Florida’s formula for success — defense, turnovers and more defense — isn’t overly exciting, but it produced a 7–1 SEC record in Will Muschamp’s second season in Gainesville. The Gators gained 276 yards and converted only 2-of-13 on third down but won for the seventh time in eight SEC games thanks to a defense that allowed only one touchdown and forced four turnovers. Quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 12-of-23 passes for 106 yards — his fourth SEC game with fewer than 110 yards — and tailback Mike Gillislee was held to under 100 yards rushing (he had 68) for the fourth straight game. Still, the Gators did enough to win, with a 45-yard Driskel-to-Gillislee touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter providing the final margin. The Gators will win the SEC East if Georgia loses at Auburn week.
Next week: UL-Lafayette
4. LSU (7–2, 3–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 9 result: Lost to Alabama 21–17
There were so many bright spots for LSU, but in the end the final score — Alabama 21, LSU 17 — is all that really matters. Despite rolling up 435 total yards on the nation’s best defense and despite getting by far the best game of quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s career, the Tigers lost to Alabama for the second straight time. Mettenberger, who came into the game completing only 46.2 percent against SEC competition, was 24-of-35 for 298 yards and one touchdown. He made several key throws to keep drives alive and was a big reason the Tigers converted 10-of-20 on third down — an amazing stat against a defense as strong as Alabama’s. LSU is now 3–2 in the SEC and all but eliminated from both the SEC and national title chase.
Next week: Mississippi State
5. South Carolina (7–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 9 result: Bye
South Carolina had the week off to regroup after losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to a devastating knee injury. The Gamecocks won’t be heading to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, but they still have two very attainable goals — a 10-win regular season (only has happened twice before) and a six-win SEC season (only once).
Next week: Arkansas
6. Texas A&M (7–2, 4–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 9 result: Beat Mississippi State 38–13
In a huge swing game in the SEC West, Texas A&M made a big statement, pounding Mississippi State 38–13 with surprising ease in Starkville. The Aggies jumped out to a 21–0 lead early in the second quarter and were never threatened. A&M recorded 693 yards of offense, including 311 through the air against one of the SEC’s most respected pass defenses. Quarterback Johnny Manziel, whose legend grows with each week, completed 30-of-36 for 311 yards and rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 21 attempts. Ben Malena chipped in with 112 yards for an A&M offense that is averaging 550.8 yards in SEC games.
Next week: at Alabama
7. Mississippi State (7–2, 3–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 9 result: Lost to Texas A&M 38–13
Just two weeks ago, Mississippi State was 7–0 and dreaming of a special season. Now, after two losses by a combined score of 76–20, the Bulldogs are 7–2 with trips to LSU and improved Ole Miss still on the schedule. MSU was outgained 693-to-310 and has given up 1,107 yards in the past two games. Tyler Russell was decent at quarterback, completing 19-of-30 for 212 yards, but the usually reliable Bulldog running game was limited to 98 yards on 27 attempts. Mississippi State only ran 57 offensive plays, compared to 97 by Texas A&M. “That’s as bad of a performance as I think we’ve had here,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said.
Next week: at LSU
8. Ole Miss (5–4, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 9 result: Lost to Georgia 37–10
The Rebels jumped on top of Georgia 10–0 in Athens but were outscored 37–0 over the game’s 45 minutes. Ole Miss had success early on offense, with three of its first four drives going for 50 yards or more. But the Rebels struggled the rest of the way; their final 11 drives went for 20 yards or fewer. The final tally was a season-low 234 yards with only 12 first downs. Tailback Jeff Scott, who had back-to-back 100-yard games against Texas A&M and Auburn, was held to 21 yards and only has 71 yards on 34 carries in the last two games. Ole Miss is still one win away from becoming bowl-eligible, with games remaining Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State.
Next week: Vanderbilt
9. Vanderbilt (5–4, 3–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 9 result: Beat Kentucky 40–0
Vanderbilt won its third straight game — and did so in convincing fashion. The Commodores jumped on Kentucky early, scoring touchdowns on four of five first half possessions and cruised to a 40–0 win in Lexington. Vanderbilt outgained the Cats 447 to 260 and converted 11-of-17 on third down (including 8-of-10 in the first half). The shutout was the first in SEC play for Vanderbilt since blanking Kentucky 6–0 in 1968, and the 40-point margin of victory was the largest in league play for the Dores since beating LSU 48–7 in 1948.
Next week: at Ole Miss
10. Tennessee (4–5, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 9 result: Beat Troy 55–48
The good news: Tennessee gained a school-record 718 yards. The bad news: Tennessee gave up a school-record 721 yards. The bottom line: The Volunteers beat Troy 55–48 in one of the craziest games of the 2012 season. Tyler Bray threw for a school-record 530 yards and five touchdowns and now has 898 yards with nine scores and one pick in his last two games. Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter each caught nine of Bray’s 29 completions, with Patterson gaining 219 yards with one touchdown and Hunter 181 yards with three scores. The big story, however, was a Tennessee defense that gave up 721 yards to a Troy team that gained 381 the previous week in a loss to FAU. “Well, it’s a bad defense,” UT coach Derek Dooley said after the game. “Just didn’t really have an answer for anything.”
Next week: Missouri
11. Arkansas (4–5, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 9 result: Beat Tulsa 19–15
Arkansas kept its bowl hopes alive with a 19–15 come-from-behind win over a Tulsa team that had won seven straight games. The Hogs were led by tailback Dennis Johnson, who gained 109 yards and scored two touchdowns on 22 carries, and wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who had had 177 yards on 11 receptions. With at least three games remaining, Hamilton has a single-season school-record 69 catches for 1,077 yards. Arkansas jumped on the Golden Hurricane early and held a 10–0 lead at the end of the first quarter. But Tulsa kept things tight and took a 15–13 lead midway through the third quarter on a 29-yard field goal. After their next two drives stalled, the Hogs reclaimed the lead early in the fourth quarter when Johnson capped a four-pay 76-yard drive with a one-yard run touchdown run up the middle. Arkansas now needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl-eligible. The Hogs play at South Carolina and Mississippi State and host LSU.
Next week: at South Carolina
12. Missouri (4–5, 1–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 9 result: Lost to Florida
Missouri ended its stay in the Big 12 with seven straight non-losing conference seasons but is already guaranteed of a losing record in its first year in the SEC. The Tigers dropped to 1–5 in the league with a 14–7 loss at Florida on Saturday. Missouri outgained the Gators 335-to-276 but was undone by four interceptions tossed by quarterback James Franklin. Making his first start since Oct. 6 (knee injury), Franklin completed 24-of-51 passes for 236 yards but was held to 29 yards rushing on 11 carries. The Missouri offense has a total of 590 yards and 17 points in two SEC road games.
Next week: at Tennessee
13. Auburn (2–7, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 9 result: Beat New Mexico State 42–7
Auburn overcome a slow start — the Tigers only led 7–0 at the half — and buried New Mexico State (which has yet to beat an FBS team this season) at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Making his first career start, quarterback Jonathan Wallace completed 9-of-16 passes for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Tigers did most of their work on the ground, with Tre Mason (152 yards) and Onterio McCalebb (113) both topping the 100-yard mark. Auburn’s final two SEC games are against the two teams who will likely meet in the league title game — Georgia and Alabama.
Next week: Georgia
14. Kentucky (1–9, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 9 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 40–0
Kentucky was held to 260 yards of offense in a 40–0 loss at home to Vanderbilt. Quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles, both true freshmen, combined to complete 13-of-35 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Cats’ defense was manhandled by a balanced Vanderbilt attack that had 200-plus yards rushing and passing. The Commodores scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions. Kentucky has lost two straight to Vanderbilt (for the first times since the mid-1990s) by a combined score of 78–8.
Next week: Samford
College football’s weekend slate is highlighted by key games in the SEC (Alabama at LSU) and Pac-12 (Oregon at USC). Here’s a look a every game.
No. 33 Washington at No. 67 California
Washington has defeated two ranked teams at home (Stanford and Oregon State) but has lost its three road games (LSU, Oregon and Arizona) by an average of 34.7 points.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU
LSU is 7–1 overall and 3–1 in the SEC, but the three league wins have come by a total of nine points. The Tigers rely heavily on their rushing attack, which could be a problem on Saturday night. Alabama leads the nation in total defense and has been especially stout against the run, allowing an average of 57.3 yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry. The Crimson Tide will make it very difficult for LSU’s one-dimensional offense to put points on the board.
No. 2 Oregon at No. 18 USC
This game isn’t quite as big in November as it was back in August. Oregon has done its part, winning its first eight games by an average of 34 points. USC, however, has lost two games, at Stanford in Week 3 and at Arizona last Saturday.
No. 31 Oklahoma State at No. 3 Kansas State
Kansas State climbed to No. 2 in the BCS standings after Florida lost to Georgia and the Wildcats disposed of Texas Tech 55–24. The Wildcats don’t quite control their own destiny, but they are obviously on the short list of teams that are in position to play in the BCS national title game.
Kansas State 34–30
No. 64 Pittsburgh at No. 4 Notre Dame
The Notre Dame defense continues to amaze. The Fighting Irish held Oklahoma to a season-low 13 points last week in Norman and have now given up a total of six touchdowns in eight games. Pittsburgh is playing better than it was earlier this season, but Notre Dame is the far superior team.
Notre Dame 27–10
No. 97 Illinois at No. 6 Ohio State
Illinois has scored a total of five touchdowns in its four Big Ten games. Ohio State is averaging 5.4 touchdowns per game in league play. Advantage Ohio State.
Ohio State 44–7
No. 38 Ole Miss at No. 7 Georgia
Georgia seized control of the SEC East with a surprising 17–9 win over Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs now must beat Ole Miss at home this weekend and Auburn on the road on Nov. 10 to make their second straight trip to the SEC title game.
No. 58 Missouri at No. 8 Florida
Florida’s passing attack has been among the least productive in the SEC all season. When the Gators were winning — which they did in their first seven games — it wasn’t too much of an issue. But now, after they were held to 266 yards in a 17–9 loss to Georgia, it’s fair to ask: Why is Florida’s passing game so anemic?
No. 11 Clemson at No. 48 Duke
Duke has given up an average of 39.7 points and 500 total yards over the last three weeks. Not good — especially with Clemson on deck. The Tigers rank second in the league in both total offense and scoring offense.
No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 34 Iowa State
Iowa State is one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the third time in four seasons under Paul Rhoads. If the Clones fail to pick up their sixth win this week, they should be able to win at least one of the final three games — at Texas, at Kansas, West Virginia.
No. 37 Arizona State at No. 13 Oregon State
Oregon State hit its first speed bump last week, losing at Washington 20–17. This week, the Beavers return to Corvallis, where they have given up a total of 20 points in three games.
Oregon State 27–21
No. 14 Texas A&M at No. 16 Mississippi State
This will be a great barometer for both teams. Mississippi State is no longer undefeated, but the Bulldogs are eager to prove they should be considered among the top teams in the SEC. Texas A&M is 6–2 overall and has already won four road games.
Texas A&M 30–24
No. 76 Temple at No. 15 Louisville
Louisville is 8–0 overall and ranked No. 10 in the BCS standings. That’s too high when you consider that the schedule has been soft and each of the Cards’ last six wins has come by 10 points or fewer.
No. 17 Stanford at No. 102 Colorado
Colorado is one of three teams nationally that is giving up more than 500 yards per game and 7.0 yards per play. The other two are Idaho and Army.
No. 30 Texas at No. 18 Texas Tech
Here’s something that we didn’t expect to see back in the summer: Texas is a seven-point underdog to Texas Tech. Texas Tech has no doubt exceeded expectations, but the betting line is a strong statement on the state of Texas football.
Texas Tech 30–27
No. 23 Arizona at No. 20 UCLA
UCLA is 3–2 in the league after its upset at Arizona State. The Bruins have been one of the most entertaining teams in the Pac-12, ranking third in the league in total offense (502.9 ypg) and fifth in scoring offense (33.4 ppg). Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has made some mistakes — four picks in the loss at Cal — but there is no doubt that he has energized a fan base that needed something to get excited about.
No. 21 Nebraska at No. 36 Michigan State
Nebraska took a huge step toward winning the Legends Division title by beating Michigan in Lincoln last week. The Huskers got it done on the defensive end, holding Michigan to 188 total yards and no touchdowns. That’s not good news for Michigan State, which continues to struggle on offense.
No. 114 Texas-San Antonio at No. 22 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron has yet to throw an interception in 319 attempts. Two years ago, as a sophomore, he threw five picks in only 91 attempts.
Louisiana Tech 47–10
No. 70 San Diego State at No. 24 Boise State
San Diego State had two running backs top the 100-yard mark — Adam Muema (143) and Walter Kazee (105) — in its 24–13 win over UNLV. The Aztecs will need to control the line of scrimmage once again to give themselves a chance to win in Boise.
Boise State 30–17
No. 35 TCU at No. 25 West Virginia
TCU’s first season in the Big 12 has been a bit of a disappointment, but the Horned Frogs have had significant personnel issues. They lost starting linebacker Tanner Brock over the summer (drugs) and have dealt with other injury issues at linebacker. Offensively, they have been without tailbacks Ed Wesley (all season), Waymon James (all but two games) and quarterback Casey Pachall (all but four games). It would have been interesting to see this team with all of its pieces.
West Virginia 37–33
No. 26 Michigan at No. 61 Minnesota
Michigan’s offense stagnated after Denard Robinson went down with an elbow injury in Saturday’s loss at Nebraska. Backup Russell Bellomy completed only 3-of-16 for 38 yards after replacing Robinson in the first half. Robinson is expected to start this week.
No. 28 Penn State at No. 69 Purdue
At the end of September, Purdue was 3¬–1 with its only loss by three points at Notre Dame. Now, at the end of October, the Boilermakers are 3–5 and there are rumors that Danny Hope’s job is in jeopardy.
Penn State 31–24
No. 96 Troy at No. 41 Tennessee
Troy, which is 4–4 overall and 3–3 in the Sun Belt, has had its moments this season — the Trojans rolled up 572 yards in a 30–24 defeat at home to Mississippi State in September — but Larry Blakeney’s club is coming off a horrible loss to FAU last weekend.
No. 85 Virginia at No. 42 NC State
Could Virginia be headed toward its first winless ACC season since 1981? It’s possible. The Cavs are 0¬–4 and figure to be an underdog in their final four games — at NC State, Miami, North Carolina, at Virginia Tech.
NC State 35–14
No. 43 Tulsa at No. 56 Arkansas
Tulsa has won seven straight games, but it hasn’t necessarily been easy. Four of the Golden Hurricane’s last five wins have come by seven points or fewer, and the schedule has been far from difficult.
No. 63 Syracuse at No. 44 Cincinnati
After scoring a total of 39 points in a three-game stretch in early October, the Orange have scored 40 and 37 points in their last two games — wins over UConn (40–10) and at South Florida (37–36). Cincinnati returns home, where it is unbeaten, after losing two straight on the road.
No. 89 Kansas at No. 45 Baylor
Baylor has yet to win a Big 12 game in the post-RG3 era. The Bears are 0–4 in the league and are giving up an average of 52.5 points per game. Kansas, too, is winless, though the Jayhawks are coming off their best game of the season, a 21–17 loss at home to Texas.
No. 92 UL-Lafayette at No. 46 ULM
ULM has yet to lose to a non-AQ conference team in 2012. The Warhawks have wins over Tulane and four Sun Belt opponents. UL Lafayette opened its conference slate with wins over Troy and FIU but has lost two straight, at North Texas and vs. Arkansas State by a combined score of 80–50.
No. 49 Vanderbilt at No. 82 Kentucky
Last year, in a 38–8 win over Kentucky in Nashville, the Commodores threw for 207 yards and rushed for 203. The Wildcats, as a team, had 211 total yards. Kentucky is looking to avoid its first two-game losing streak to Vanderbilt since the mid-1990s.
No. 107 Texas State at No. 52 Utah State
Utah State ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense, and that includes two games vs. AQ conference opponents (Utah, Wisconsin) and a game with BYU. This team is legitimately good.
Utah State 37–14
No. 124 UMass at No. 53 Northern Illinois
After making Ohio sweat in a 37–34 loss in Foxboro, UMass has lost its last three games — to Western Michigan, Bowling Green and Vanderbilt — by a combined score of 125–21. This will get ugly early.
Northern Illinois 48–10
No. 111 Akron at No. 53 Kent State
Kent State is rolling. The Golden Flashes picked up their sixth straight win last weekend — and did so in impressive fashion, beating previously unbeaten Rutgers 35–23 on the road. Kent State leads the nation in turnover margin at plus-2.38 per game.
Kent State 41–7
No. 87 SMU at No. 59 UCF
UCF is a bit undervalued nationally. The Knights are 6–2 overall, with losses at Ohio State by 15 points and at home to Missouri by five points. They are 4–0 in Conference USA and have already defeated four of the other five teams in the East.
No. 60 Iowa at No. 74 Indiana
After flirting with victory in recent weeks — the Hoosiers lost three straight by a total of eight points — Indiana broke through and beat Illinois 31–17 on the road last Saturday. IU is 1–3 in the Big Ten but is still in the hunt to represent the Leaders Division in the league title game.
No. 103 Washington State at No. 62 Utah
Utah scored a season-high 49 points in a surprisingly easy 22-point win over Cal last week. Four of the touchdowns came on offense, two on special teams and one on defense.
No. 119 Hawaii at No. 65 Fresno State
Hawaii has lost all of its games vs. FBS opponents — and it hasn’t been close. The Warriors’ “best” loss was by 15 points last week to Colorado State, which is 2–6.
Fresno State 48–13
No. 121 FAU at No. 66 Navy
FAU hasn’t won a road game since beating Western Kentucky 17–16 in Bowling Green in November 2010. Won’t happen this week. Navy has won four straight.
No. 68 Georgia Tech at No. 71 Maryland
It’s tough enough to win games when you have an actual quarterback playing quarterback. It’s really hard when you are forced to play a linebacker at the game’s most important position. Maryland will send out Shawn Petty, an option quarterback in high school, against Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech 20–10
No. 73 San Jose State at No. 122 Idaho
San Jose State is very quietly having a really nice season. The Spartans are 6–2 overall and 2–1 in the WAC thanks to a passing attack that averages 328.6 yards per game.
San Jose State 48–0
No. 123 New Mexico State at No. 75 Auburn
Auburn’s struggles have been well-documented, but the Tigers should have little trouble with New Mexico State. The Aggies are 1–7 and have not won since defeating Sacramento State in Week 1. For Auburn, true freshman Jonathan Wallace will be making his first start at quarterback.
No. 84 Connecticut at No. 77 South Florida
Over the last two years, South Florida has been involved in six Big East games that have been decided by three points or less. The Bulls are 0–6 in those games. This won’t be decided by three points or less, and that’s good news for USF.
South Florida 27–14
No. 94 Boston College at No. 78 Wake Forest
Wake Forest is somehow 4–4 despite ranking 112th in the nation in total offense and 82nd in total defense. The Demon Deacons are really struggling to score in ACC games of late, with 14, 16 and 13 in their last three.
Wake Forest 21–20
No. 88 Houston at No. 79 East Carolina
One week after giving up 512 yards rushing in a 56–28 loss at home to Navy, East Carolina must solve a Houston offense that is averaging 340.1 yards passing. The Cougars got off to a rough start but have won four of their last five games.
No. 117 Memphis at No. 80 Marshall
Marshall ranks 119th nationally in scoring defense and has allowed 45 points or more in five of its eight games. Memphis, however, isn’t good enough to take advantage of the Herd’s porous defense. The Tigers have scored 17 points or fewer in five straight games.
No. 81 Arkansas State at No. 99 North Texas
Arkansas State has played its way into the Sun Belt race by winning three straight. The Red Wolves, one of three teams with a 3–1 record in the league, trail ULM by one full game. A-State hosts ULM next Thursday night. Big game.
Arkansas State 37–20
No. 83 Western Michigan at No. 108 Central Michigan
We picked Western Michigan to win the MAC West Division in our preseason magazine. Bad move on our part. The Broncos are 1–4 in the league, with the lone win coming against winless UMass.
Western Michigan 30–20
No. 90 Air Force at No. 115 Army
Air Force is probably ranked a bit too low. The Falcons are 5–3, including a loss in overtime to Navy and a six-point loss at Michigan. The other loss was bad — at UNLV — but that was in mid-September. AFA is 4–1 since that game, highlighted by last week’s 48–31 victory over Nevada.
Air Force 34–21
No. 95 Miami (Ohio) at No. 116 Buffalo
Miami picked up the biggest win of the Don Treadwell era last week, handing previously unbeaten Ohio its first loss of the season. A win this week at Buffalo would set up a huge game on Nov. 10 vs. surging Kent State.
No. 98 New Mexico at No. 106 UNLV
Since beating Air Force 38–35 on Sept. 22, UNLV is 0–5. There have been some close losses — by five to Nevada, by 11 a San Diego State — but Bobby Hauck is going to have to win some games to save his job.
New Mexico 34–30
No. 100 Rice at No. 104 Tulane
Tulane was one of the nation’s worst teams through the first half of the 2012 season, but Curtis Johnson’s club has won two of its last three games and is now 2–2 in C-USA. The Green Wave’s surge has coincided with the return of starting quarterback Ryan Griffin, who has 10 touchdowns and one interception in the last three games.
No. 105 UAB at No. 110 Southern Miss
This is Southern Miss’ best chance to avoid the unthinkable, an 0–12 record. The Golden Eagles have given up 38 points or more in all but two games — not what the school had in mind when it hired Ellis Johnson, a defensive guru, away from South Carolina.
No. 109 FIU at No. 120 South Alabama
FIU’s miserable 2012 season concludes with road games at South Alabama and FAU and a home date with ULM. The Golden Panthers have one win — over Akron in overtime in Week 2 — and are 0–5 in the Sun Belt. They are playing better of late, with three straight losses by eight points or less, but this season has been a colossal disappointment.
No. 118 Colorado State at No. 112 Wyoming
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen is back after serving a one-game suspension for his post-game tirade against Air Force’s Troy Calhoun. “Not being able to coach this football team was probably the most-difficult pill I have ever had to swallow,” Christensen said earlier this week.
Last week: 38–18
College football’s Week 10 slate is highlighted by the Alabama-LSU clash in Baton Rouge and Oregon’s visit to USC. The Trojans have played their way out of the national title race with two losses in league play, but this is still a very talented team that is capable of winning the rest of its games.
Week 10 Predictions
Alabama (-10) at LSU
Maybe it’s because Alabama is so good. Or maybe it’s because LSU isn’t quite as formidable as we expected (though the Tigers are ranked fifth in the BCS standings). But this game just doesn’t feel as big as it should. Alabama has raced out to an 8–0 start with an efficient offense and a dominating defense. The Crimson Tide have won every game by at least 19 points and have not led by less than 13 points at any point in the second half. LSU is 7–1 overall and 3–1 in the SEC, but the three league wins have come by a total of nine points. The Tigers rely heavily on their rushing attack, which could be a problem on Saturday night. Alabama leads the nation in total defense and has been especially stout against the run, allowing an average of 57.3 yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry. The Crimson Tide will make it very difficult for LSU’s one-dimensional offense to put points on the board.
Oregon (-7.5) at USC
Here’s another game that isn’t quite as big in November as it was back in August. Oregon has done its part, winning its first eight games by an average of 34 points. USC, however, has lost two games, at Stanford in Week 3 and at Arizona last Saturday. The Trojans recorded some gaudy stats in Tucson — Matt Barkley threw for 493 yards and Marqise Lee had 345 receiving yards — but the defense had no answer for Arizona, against the pass (369 yards) or the run (219 yards). Arizona is very good offensively. Oregon is much, much better. The Ducks lead the nation in scoring (53.4 ypg) and are the only team in the country that averages over 300 yards rushing and 200 yards passing.
Texas A&M (-6.5) at Mississippi State
This will be a great barometer for both teams. Mississippi State is no longer undefeated, but the Bulldogs are eager to prove they should be considered among the top teams in the SEC. Texas A&M is 6–2 overall and has already won four road games. Last Saturday, the Aggies rolled up 671 yards in a 63–21 win at Auburn. Johnny Manziel was back to his old playmaking self, throwing for 260 yards and two touchdowns and running for 90 yards and three scores. The key to slowing down A&M — and it’s easier said than done — is keeping Manziel in the pocket and forcing him to make plays in the passing game. The strength of the Mississippi State defense is the secondary; if the Bulldogs’ front seven can stop the run, the onus will be on Manziel to win this game with his arm.
Texas A&M 30–24
Oklahoma State (+9.5) at Kansas State
Kansas State climbed to No. 2 in the BCS standings after Florida lost to Georgia and the Wildcats disposed of Texas Tech 55–24. The Wildcats don’t quite control their own destiny, but they are obviously on the short list of teams that are in position to play in the BCS national title game. The first hurdle to clear is Oklahoma State, which beat TCU 36–14 on Saturday to improve to 5–2 overall and 3–1 in the Big 12. True freshman Wes Lunt, the opening day starter, returned after missing three full games with a knee injury and threw for 324 yards and one touchdown. The schedule hasn’t been too taxing, but Oklahoma State has topped the 600-yard mark four times and leads the nation in total offense (586.1 ypg). K-State is the better team, but the Cats will have to play well to win this game.
Kansas State 34–30
Nebraska (+1.5) at Michigan State
Nebraska took a huge step toward winning the Legends Division title by beating Michigan in Lincoln last week. The Huskers got it done on the defensive end, holding Michigan to 188 total yards and no touchdowns. That’s not good news for Michigan State, which continues to struggle on offense. The Spartans have only topped 330 yards in Big Ten action once this season, in a 31–27 win at Indiana. Last week, they did just enough to beat Wisconsin 16–13 in overtime at Camp Randall Stadium to improve to 2–3 in the league. This team has been about what we expected on defense — the Spartans lead the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense — but the offense has been a disappointment. A team that gives up 15.0 points per game should be better than 5–4.
Ole Miss (+14) at Georgia
Georgia seized control of the SEC East with a surprising 17–9 win over Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs now must beat Ole Miss at home this weekend and Auburn on the road on Nov. 10 to make their second straight trip to the SEC title game. Ole Miss won’t be heading to the SEC title game, but the Rebels are only one win away from becoming bowl-eligible. Not bad for a team that went 0–8 in the SEC last season and was outgained by an average of 174.2 yards in league games. Last weekend, the Rebels knocked off Arkansas 30–27 in Fayetteville for their first SEC road win since 2009. Hugh Freeze now has to be in the discussion for SEC Coach of the Year honors.
Texas (+7) at Texas Tech
Here’s something that we didn’t expect to see back in the summer: Texas is a seven-point underdog to Texas Tech. Texas Tech has no doubt exceeded expectations, but the betting line is a strong statement on the state of Texas football. The Longhorns, who gave up 161 points in a three-game stretch in October, avoided complete disaster by scoring in the final minute to beat Kansas 21–17 in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon. Texas’ defense finally played well, but the offense struggled mightily — gaining only 342 yards against a KU defense that was giving up an average of 428.4 yards per game. Texas Tech was manhandled in Manhattan by Kansas State, but the Red Raiders still have to be considered among the most improved teams in the nation. They padded their stats against a very soft non-conference schedule, but it’s still noteworthy that they rank in the top 12 nationally in both total offense and total defense.
Texas Tech 30–27
Arizona at UCLA
What was once considered a forgone conclusion — USC winning the Pac-12 South title — is now very much in doubt. The Trojans have two league losses and still have to play Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA. USC’s unexpected struggles have opened the door for either Arizona, Arizona State or UCLA to win the South. Arizona already has three losses, but the Cats have a key head-to-head win over USC and a relatively soft late-season schedule. UCLA is 3–2 in the league after its upset at Arizona State. The Bruins have been one of the most entertaining teams in the Pac-12, ranking third in the league in total offense (502.9 ypg) and fifth in scoring offense (33.4 ppg). Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has made some mistakes — four picks in the loss at Cal — but there is no doubt that he has energized a fanbase that needed something to get excited about.
Virginia Tech (-2.5) at Miami (Fla.) (Thu.)
Virginia Tech and Miami have a combined eight losses, yet the winner of this game likely will be the Coastal Division’s representative in the ACC title game. Duke is still in the race, but the Blue Devils have the most difficult remaining schedule. Virginia Tech hasn’t played since losing 38–17 at Clemson two weeks ago. In their three true road games, the Hokies have given up 35, 48 and 38 points — all in losses. In those three games, they have allowed an average of 242.7 yards rushing. That is very un-Bud Foster-like. Statistically, Miami is in the middle of the pack in the ACC in rushing offense, both overall (seventh, 126.8 ypg) and in league games (sixth, 135.0 ypg). The Canes do boast one of the league’s top running backs in Duke Johnson, but the true freshman is splitting time with Mike James and has not gotten more than 14 carries in any game.
Miami (Fla.) 24–21
TCU (+7) at West Virginia
The two new members of the Big 12 get together for a game that isn’t quite as important as most had expected when the schedules were releasted. West Virginia climbed into the top five of the national polls after winning its first five games, but the Mountaineers have been exposed on defense over the last month. In Big 12 action, WVU is allowing 564.8 yards per game and a staggering 7.7 yards per play. It doesn’t matter how good you are on offense — and the Mountaineers are very good — competing for a conference title is nearly impossible with defensive numbers that bad. TCU’s first season in the Big 12 has been a bit of a disappointment, but the Horned Frogs have had significant personnel issues. They lost starting linebacker Tanner Brock over the summer (drugs) and have dealt with other injury issues at linebacker. Offensively, they have been without tailbacks Ed Wesley (all season), Waymon James (all but two games) and quarterback Casey Pachall (all but four games). It would have been interesting to see this team with all of its pieces.
West Virginia 37–33
Last week: 4–6 overall (3–7 against the spread)
Season: 58–32 overall (46–44 against the spread)
LSU hasn’t quite been as formidable as we originally thought, but Alabama’s trip to Baton Rouge to battle the Tigers is still the biggest game in the SEC this season. There’s also an intriguing battle in Starkville, as Mississippi State hosts Texas A&M in a game featuring teams jockeying for position in the SEC West. Georgia is two wins away from wrapping up the SEC East title. This week, the Bulldogs host the improved Ole Miss Rebels.
Other Week 10 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 10:
1. Does LSU have enough on offense to beat Alabama?
At first glance, LSU’s offensive numbers are just fine. The Tigers are averaging 385.8 yards and 31.0 points per game — not great, but good enough for a team with an elite defense. Those numbers however, have been padded by a soft non-conference schedule. Against SEC competition, LSU is averaging only 16.3 points (11th in the league) and 318.3 yards (11th) per game. The biggest problem has been an anemic passing attack that has struggled to throw the ball down the field. In SEC games, LSU is last in the league in completions of 10 yards or more (18), 20 yards or more (eight), 30 yards or more (two) … you get the point. Junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger ranks 12th in the SEC in passer rating in league games and is averaging only 5.4 yards per attempt. This production (or lack thereof) has been sufficient to win all but one game this season, but it’s hard to envision LSU beating Alabama without the threat of the forward pass. Last year, the Tigers won the regular-season game vs. the Tide 9–6 despite throwing for only 91 yards, but that LSU team had a quarterback (Jordan Jefferson) who was a threat to run. Jeferson’s mobility added a different dimension to the LSU offense — something that the ’12 Tigers don’t have with Mettenberger under center.
2. Can Alabama continue its dominance away from home?
Alabama has emerged as the premier program in the nation over the last few years due in large part to its ability to win on the road. Nick Saban’s club has won 11 straight games away from home, dating back to a 24–21 setback at LSU in November 2010. And the Crimson Tide aren’t just winning — they are dominating. The average margin of victory in these games — three of which have been on a neutral site — is a staggering 29.9 points per game. The closest victory was by 16 points over Penn State in September 2011; the most decisive was a 52–0 shutout vs. Arkansas this season. Keep these stats in mind when you are sitting down to watch Alabama take on LSU in vaunted Death Valley on Saturday night.
3. Can Georgia handle prosperity?
It’s amazing what one win can do for the morale of a football team and its fan base. Georgia opened the month of October with a disheartening 35–7 loss at South Carolina. After a week off, the Bulldogs struggled through a surprisingly close 29–24 win at Kentucky. A season that began with such promise was on the verge of implosion. That all changed, however, with a 17–9 victory in Jacksonville against the previously unbeaten Gators. Georgia suddenly finds itself in control of the SEC East, needing only wins vs. Ole Miss this weekend and at Auburn on Nov. 10 to return to Atlanta for the second straight season. And if the Dawgs somehow find a way to win the SEC title game, a trip to the BCS National Championship Game likely would be next on the docket. But first things first: Georgia must take care of business this week against a very capable Ole Miss team that has won consecutive SEC games for the first time since 2009.
4. Is Hugh Freeze the SEC Coach of the Year?
Ole Miss is only one win away from becoming bowl-eligible. Not bad for a team that went 0–8 in the SEC last season and was outgained by an average of 174.2 yards in league games. Last weekend, the Rebels knocked off Arkansas 30–27 in Fayetteville for their first SEC road win since 2009. The man responsible for the turnaround is Hugh Freeze, who last season led Arkansas State to its only Sun Belt title in school history. Freeze has instilled confidence in a team that had no reason to be confident heading into the 2012 season. “Hugh Freeze has got them going there at Ole Miss,” said Georgia’s Mark Richt, whose Bulldogs host Ole Miss on Saturday. “He’s doing a great job. They’re really excited right now, and they’re winning. They’ve already scored more points, had more first downs, had more touchdowns, more passing yards and just about every stat that you could have. They’ve had more of that now in eight games than they had all of last season, so it’s very impressive.” I realize it’s not too hard to find a coach praising another coach. But this time it’s all true.
5. Is James Franklin healthy enough to give Missouri a chance in Gainesville?
Missouri has struggled in its first season in the SEC. But we haven’t seen the Tigers at their best for much of the 2012 season. Injuries at quarterback (James Franklin), running back (Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy) and on the offensive line have limited Missouri on offense. Last week, the Tigers broke threw with their first SEC win, pulling away from Kentucky in the second half en route to a 33–10 win. Franklin wasn’t expected to play but was forced into action after Corbin Berkstresser through interceptions on MU’s first two possessions of the third quarter. Franklin clearly wasn’t 100 percent — he attempted only nine passes and did not have any carries — but his presence in the lineup made a difference. The question this week is whether or not his knee is healthy enough to give the Tigers a chance to score some points against an outstanding Florida defense. With Franklin at his best — serving as a threat with both his arm and his legs — the Tigers have a chance to keep it close in Gainesville. If not, it could be another long day for Mizzou, which lost its only previous SEC road games by 21 points (at South Carolina).
6. How alarmed should Florida be about its passing game?
Florida’s passing attack has been among the least productive in the league all season. When the Gators were winning — which they did in their first seven games — it wasn’t too much of an issue. But now, after they were held to 266 yards in a 17–9 loss to Georgia, it’s fair to ask: Why is Florida’s passing game so anemic? The Gators rank last in the SEC and 114th in the nation in passing offense, averaging only 143.6 yards per game. From an efficiency standpoint, they aren’t awful — the Gators rank ninth in the SEC in passing efficiency and have only thrown three interceptions — but a team with as much talent as Florida should be more adept at throwing the ball down the field. It’s unfathomable that a program like Florida only has 15 pass plays for 20 yards or more eight games into the season.
7. Can Tennessee and Auburn avoid disaster?
These are not good times at Tennessee and Auburn. In Knoxville, Volunteer fans are dealing with an 0–5 start in the SEC for the third straight season. At Auburn, the Tiger faithful are trying to understand how their team can be so bad just two years after winning the national championship. As bad as things seem now, imagine the scene at these two SEC strongholds if either team loses this week. Tennessee hosts Troy, which is 4–4 overall and 3–3 in the Sun Belt. The Trojans have had their moments this season — they rolled up 572 yards in a 30–24 defeat at home to Mississippi State in September — but they are coming off a horrible loss to FAU last weekend. Tennessee is favored by 18.5 points. Risk of loss for the Vols: Low. New Mexico State, which has losses to Idaho and Texas-San Antonio on its résumé, is arguably one of the worst five teams in the nation. Auburn is favored by 22.5 points. Risk of loss: Very low.
8. Can Jordan & Jordan keep it going for Vanderbilt?
The level of competition was no doubt a factor, but Jordan Rodgers had his most efficient game at Vanderbilt last week, completing 17-of-21 passes for 217 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Dores’ 49–7 win over UMass. The senior quarterback is now completing 58.9 percent of his passes and has only thrown one pick in the last six games. The recipient of many of Rodgers’ targets has been junior wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Last week, Matthews caught 10 passes for 112 yards. It was the seventh 100-yard game of Matthews’ career, but the first that did not come vs. an SEC opponent. A junior from Madison, Ala., Matthews has 775 yards receiving with at least four games remaining. Barring an injury, he figures to be Vanderbilt’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Earl Bennett had 1,146 yards in 2006.
9. Can Mississippi State get back on track?
Mississippi State’s undefeated run came to an end with a resounding 38–7 loss at Alabama on Saturday night. No great surprise. Even the most optimistic MSU fan could not have expected the Bulldogs to win in Tuscaloosa. Now, with that loss behind them, the Dogs must focus on a difficult stretch run. There’s a decent chance State might only be favored one more time this season — at home vs. Arkansas on Nov. 17. This week, Texas A&M comes to town with the league’s most explosive offense. The Aggies opened as a slight 2.5-point favorite but the line quickly jumped to six points. A loss on Saturday would send MSU to Baton Rouge on Nov. 10 riding a two-game losing streak. State coach Dan Mullen is well aware that his team faces a challenging final month of the season. “You always define yourself in November,” he said earlier this week. “To me, it is a thing of how you are going to close out the season. We put ourselves in a great position for the month of November right now. Now, you have to see what separates a good season from a great season to a championship season.”
10. Will Texas A&M run the table on the road?
The wins haven’t exactly come against marquee opponents, but give credit to Texas A&M: The Aggies are 4–0 on the road this season with a redshirt freshman starting at quarterback. Kevin Sumlin’s team beat SMU 48–3 in Week 3; rallied to beat Ole Miss in Oxford 30–27; held on for dear life to edge Louisiana Tech 59–57; and then rolled past Auburn with shocking ease, 63–21, last Saturday. This week, the Aggies take their traveling road show to Starkville to face Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 7–1 overall and 3–1 in the SEC, yet A&M is a 6.5-point favorite. If the Aggies survive Starkville, then the fun really starts: On Nov. 10, they head to Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide. Good luck.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Missouri (+16) at Florida
|Florida 35-10||Florida 27-14||
Texas A&M (-6.5) at Miss. State
|Texas A&M 28-21||Texas A&M 31-24||
Texas A&M 34-31
Texas A&M 30–24
Vanderbilt (-7) at Kentucky
|Vanderbilt 28-14||Vanderbilt 30-13||
Troy (+18.5) at Tennessee
|Tennessee 42-21||Tennessee 38-14||
|Tulsa (+7.5) at Arkansas||Tulsa 38-35||Arkansas 34-27||
N.M. State (+22.5) at Auburn
|Auburn 17-7||Auburn 24-21||
|Ole Miss (+14) at Georgia||Ole Miss 35-31||Georgia 34-21||
|Alabama (-9.5) at LSU||Alabama 35-14||Alabama 20-10||
Related College Football Content
There was a big shakeup in the SEC East with Georgia seizing control of the division race after beating rival Florida in Jacksonville. The Dawgs have jumped up to No. 3 in the weekly power rankings. Ole Miss made a big move, as well, from No. 11 to No. 8 after beating Arkansas in Fayetteville on a last-second field goal.
Post-Week 9 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron continues to lead the nation in passing efficiency after completing 16-of-23 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and no picks in the Crimson Tide’s 38–7 win over Mississippi State.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel was back to his old play-making self in the Aggies’ 63–21 win at Auburn. Johnny Football threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 90 yards and three scores to lead an offense that rolled up over 300 yards rushing and passing.
3. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — The true freshman is emerging as Alabama’s top rushing threat. Yeldon ran for 84 yards on only 10 carries in the win over Mississippi State and now has 357 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games. He is averaging 7.0 yards per carry, the most by an SEC back with more than 40 carries.
Post-Week 9 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney delivered the play of the game in South Carolina’s 38–35 win over Tennessee. The Vols drove to the South Carolina 19-yard line trailing by only three points, but Clowney forced a fumble at the 1:08 mark that basically ended the game. In nine games, Clowney has 50 tackles (15.0 for a loss) and 8.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones made plays all over the field in the Bulldogs’ upset over Florida. The junior linebacker recorded 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. He helped secure the win by knocking the ball out of Jordan Reed’s hands at the 5-yard line with 2:05 remaining and Georgia holding an eight-point lead. Sanders Cummings recovered the ball in the end zone to secure the win.
3. Kevin Minter, LSU — The junior middle linebacker has 75 tackles and three sacks for the season. LSU was off last season.
Post-Week 9 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — Alabama is 8–0 overall and 5–0 in the SEC after its 38–7 win over Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide have won every game by at least 19 points and have not led by less than 13 points at any point in the second half.
2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss — After going winless in the SEC last season, Ole Miss is now 2–2 in the league after winning at Arkansas 30–27 on Saturday. The Rebels are one of the most improved teams in the nation.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators suffered their first loss of the season last weekend, but this is still a much-improved team. The Gators have been outstanding on defense and efficient (until Saturday) on offense. Muschamp has quieted the critics who questioned whether he was the right man for the job.
Post-Week 9 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (8–0, 5–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 8 result: Beat Mississippi State 38–7
Alabama handed Mississippi State its first loss of the season — and did so in convincing fashion. The Tide relied on a balanced attack (as usual) and won the turnover battle (as usual) en route to its 12th straight win. AJ McCarron completed 16-of-23 passes for 208 yards with two touchdowns, and has now thrown 177 passes this season without an interception. T.J. Yeldon was the leading rusher for Bama, averaging 8.4 yards on his 10 attempts. Alabama still has not given up more than 14 points in any game this season.
Next week: at LSU
2. LSU (7–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 8 result: Bye
LSU has a chance to play its way back into the national title race with No. 1 Alabama coming to town on Saturday night. The Tigers, who have won their three SEC games by a total of nine points, will need to make plays in the passing game to beat Alabama. You can’t beat the Tide simply by running the ball.
Next week: Alabama
3. Georgia (7–1, 5–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 8 result: Beat Florida 17–9
Georgia seized control of the SEC East with a surprising 17–9 win over Florida in Jacksonville. It wasn’t always aesthetically pleasing — the two teams combined for nine turnovers and 24 penalties — but it was a huge win for a Georgia team that has failed to play up to its potential for most of the 2012 season. Freshman Todd Gurley was the only offensive standout for either team, rushing for 118 yards on 27 carries. Quarterback Aaron Murray, who was so sharp in the win at Kentucky, completed only 50 percent of his passes and was intercepted three times. It was his first game with more than one pick this season.
Next week: Ole Miss
4. Florida (7–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 8 result: Lost to Georgia 17–9
The Gators’ SEC East title hopes took a huge hit with a 17-9 loss to Georgia. Florida needs to beat Missouri next week and hope Georgia loses to either Ole Miss or Auburn. The Gators had committed a total of four turnovers in their first seven games but lost four fumbles and threw two interceptions on Saturday. Florida entered the game averaging 212.7 yards rushing but netted only 81 on 41 attempts. Jeff Driskel threw for more than 100 yards for the first time in four games, but he completed only 53.8 percent of his passes and was picked off twice. More important, he was not much a threat running the ball — something that has been a huge part of the Florida attack.
Next week: Missouri
5. South Carolina (7–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 8 result: Beat Tennessee 38–35
South Carolina has its first-ever three-game winning streak against Tennessee, but the story in Columbia was the horrific injury to tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior, who tore his ACL last season, suffered a devastating knee injury while planting his right leg in the second quarter. Both teams were visibly shaken by the injury, but play resumed and South Carolina held on for the three-point win in what turned out to be a highly entertaining second half. The Gamecock defense gave up a season-high 472 yards but made the key plays down the stretch to preserve the victory. Connor Shaw threw for a career-high 356 yards and a season-high three touchdowns to lead the Carolina offense.
Next week: Bye
6. Mississippi State (7–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 8 result: Lost to Alabama 38–7
Mississippi State hoped to be the first team to make Alabama sweat in the second half. Didn’t happen. The Bulldogs fell behind 14–0 after one quarter and 24–0 at the half on their way to their first loss of the season. MSU netted only 47 yards rushing against the ferocious Alabama defense. LaDarius Perkins, who had three straight 100-yard games prior to Saturday, netted only 38 yards on 15 carries. The highly touted State secondary had trouble slowing down the Alabama passing attack. Tide quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 208 yards (and averaged 9.0 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Next week: Texas A&M
7. Texas A&M (6–2, 3–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 8 result: Beat Auburn 63–21
The Aggies’ offense got back on track against the struggling Auburn Tigers. Texas A&M rolled up 671 yards of offense — including over 300 on the ground and through the air — while picking up its fourth road win of the season. Johnny Manziel, as usual, led the way with 260 yards passing and two touchdowns and added 90 yards rushing and three scores on the ground. Texas A&M is now averaging 522.4 yards in its five SEC games, the most in the league vs. conference opponents.
Next week: at Mississippi State
8. Ole Miss (5–3, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 8 result: Beat Arkansas 30–27
We knew Ole Miss was vastly improved. Now the Rebels have a quality win to prove it. Bryson Rose drilled a 31-yard field goal as time expired to give the Rebels their first SEC road win since 2009. Ole Miss is now one win away from bowl-eligibility under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, who now has to be in the discussion for SEC Coach of the Year honors. Bo Wallace completed 29-of-37 for 278 yards and one touchdown. Wallace, a junior college transfer, led Ole Miss on an eight-play, 61-yard drive in two minutes to set up the game-winning field goal.
Next week: at Georgia
9. Tennessee (3–5, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 8 result: Lost to South Carolina 38–35
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley summed it up best after his team dropped 0–5 in the SEC for the third straight season. “It’s the same old song and dance at the SEC level,” said Dooley, who has yet to beat a ranked team in his two-plus years at Tennessee. There were plenty of positives for the Vols — Tyler Bray threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns, and Zach Rogers had 107 yards receiving and three scores — but in the end they simply couldn’t make the big play when it mattered most. Trailing by three points, UT drove deep into South Carolina territory in the final minutes, but Bray lost a fumble after being hit by Jadeveon Clowney. “We had a chance to win, and they made a great play,” Dooley said.
Next week: Troy
10. Vanderbilt (4–4, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 8 result: Beat UMass 49–7
The Commodores overcame a slow start — they led only 7–0 late in the second quarter — but dominated winless UMass in the second half to even their record at 4–4. Vanderbilt broke the game open with four touchdowns in a six-minute span in the third quarter. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers was sharp, completing 17-of-21 for 217 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Dores were forced to go most of the game without Zac Stacy, who went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Stacy is expected to return next week vs. Kentucky.
Next week: at Kentucky
11. Arkansas (3–5, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 8 result: Lost to Ole Miss 30–27
Was Arkansas turning the corner after winning two straight? Or did the Hogs just take advantage of a soft spot in the schedule with wins over Auburn and Kentucky? I think it’s safe to say it was the latter. The Hogs’ modest winning streak was snapped with a 30–27 loss at home to surging Ole Miss. Arkansas outgained the Rebs 464 to 355 but was unable to get key stops late in the game. After the Razorbacks tied the game on a Dennis Johnson 5-yard run with 2:44 remaining, Ole Miss drove 61 yards for the game-winning field goal. Arkansas, now 3–5, must win three of its final four games to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: Tulsa
12. Missouri (4–4, 1–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 8 result: Beat Kentucky 33–10
It took longer than most Missouri fans would have liked, but the Tigers picked up their first SEC win on Saturday. Mizzou scored 33 points despite gaining only 273 yard thanks in part to an opportunistic offense that converted all three of Kentucky’s lost fumbles into touchdowns. James Franklin, who missed most of the Vanderbilt game and all of the Alabama game with a knee injury, was forced into action in the second half after redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser was intercepted on consecutive possessions. Franklin threw for only 16 yards and did not have a rushing attempt in his five possessions. Kendial Lawrence had his first 100-yard game vs. an SEC foe, gaining 108 yards on 23 carries.
Next week: at Florida
13. Auburn (1–7, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 8 result: Lost to Texas A&M 63–21
The Tigers hit a new low on Saturday night, losing by 42 points at home to SEC newcomer Texas A&M. The Aggies rolled up 671 yards of offense — the most ever given up any Auburn team — and scored seven touchdowns on the eight possessions played by starting quarterback Johnny Manziel. Clint Moseley got the start at quarterback for the third straight week but only attempted one pass. Kiehl Frazier and Jonthan Wallace both saw significant action in relief. Wallace, a true freshman who has been used almost exclusively as a Wildcat quarterback, completed 6-of-9 for 122 yards and two touchdowns and added 71 yards rushing.
Next week: New Mexico State
14. Kentucky (1–8, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 8 result: Lost to Missouri 33–10
Kentucky’s offense took a step back on Saturday after a relatively strong showing in a 29–24 loss to Georgia two weeks ago. The Wildcats gained only 179 total yards — their fifth SEC game with under 250 — and were shut out in the second half in a 33–10 loss at Missouri. Kentucky had three drives in the first quarter that went for 50 yards or more but were completely shut down in the second half. The Cats’ longest drive in the final two quarters went for 20 yards; their other six possessions either ended with a punt after three plays or a turnover. True freshman quarterback Patrick Towles returned after missing two games with an ankle injury. He completed 1-of-4 for two yards.
Next week: Vanderbilt
College football’s Week 9 is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC (Florida vs. Georgia, Mississippi State at Alabama) and a meeting of two storied programs in Norman, Okla., as Notre Dame takes on Oklahoma. There is a key clash in the Big East, as Cincinnati makes the short trip to Louisville on Friday night. And USC heads to Tucson for a tricky game with the Wildcats.
No. 39 Cincinnati at No. 17 Louisville
This key Big East clash lost some of its intrigue when Cincinnati suffered a 29–23 defeat at Toledo on Saturday. That loss didn’t hurt the Bearcats’ standing in the Big East, but this is no longer a battle of undefeated and nationally ranked teams.
No. 57 Nevada at No. 94 Air Force
Nevada has tumbled down the Athlon Sports rankings in recent week. The Wolf Pack had some close wins against bad teams — Wyoming (35–28 OT) and UNLV (42–37) — then lost at home last week, in overtime, to San Diego State.
No. 16 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama
How good is Alabama? Well, Nick Saban’s club is favored by more than three touchdowns against an undefeated Mississippi State team that is ranked 11th in the BCS standings. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 in the nation, have won their seven games by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points. Can Mississippi State be the first team to make Bama sweat? The guess here is yes — to a degree.
No. 101 Colorado at No. 2 Oregon
Colorado has given up 101 points in its last two games, losses to Arizona State and USC. The Buffs rank 119th in the nation in scoring defense (42.6 ppg). This will not be remotely competitive.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 10 Georgia (Jacksonville)
There’s plenty at stake when Florida and Georgia get together for their annual tussle in Jacksonville. The Gators, already 7–0 in the league, can wrap up the SEC East with a win. Georgia can’t clinch anything this weekend, but the Bulldogs — who still have games with Ole Miss and Auburn — would control their own destiny with a victory.
No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State
Bill Snyder is the obvious choice for Big 12 Coach of the Year at this point, but Tommy Tuberville has to be No. 2 on the list. The Red Raiders, who went 2–7 in the league last season, are 6–1 overall and 3–1 in the Big 12. And there are some quality wins on the résumé — at Iowa State, vs. West Virginia, at TCU.
Kansas State 35–27
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma
Notre Dame expects Everett Golson to be back at quarterback after missing the BYU game with a concussion. He is far from polished throwing the ball, but he is a dynamic playmaker who can create scoring opportunities with his legs. The Irish will have to limit their turnovers and score touchdowns — not field goals — in the red zone.
No. 7 Ohio State at No. 23 Penn State
Penn State has won five straight games after opening the season with losses to Ohio and Virginia. The Nittany Lions are getting it done with a surprisingly potent offense that is led by the surprisingly good Matt McGloin. A year ago, McGloin failed to throw for more than 220 yards in any game and had eight touchdowns and five interceptions in 231 attempts. This season, McGloin has topped the 220-yard mark in five of seven games and has 14 TDs and two INTs in 259 attempts.
Penn State 33–28
No. 36 Tennessee at No. 9 South Carolina
In his Monday press conference, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley said Tyler Bray will be on a short leash in Columbia. “If he’s loose with the football, he’s coming out of the game and we’re going to play Justin (Worley),” Dooley said. “I told him that.” In four SEC games, Bray is completing just over 50 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. That simply isn’t good enough for a guy with as much talent as Bray.
South Carolina 31–20
No. 11 USC at No. 29 Arizona
USC has quietly won four in a row since its damaging Week 3 loss at Stanford. The Trojans, 6–1 overall and ranked No. 10 in the latest BCS standings, can play their way back into the national title mix with wins this week at Arizona and next week at home vs. Oregon.
No. 12 Oregon State at No. 40 Washington
Oregon State survived for two weeks without Sean Mannion in the lineup, beating BYU 42–24 and Utah 21–7. Now, Mannion is back, and the Beavers are ready to light up the scoreboard against a Washington team that has given up 41 points or more in three of its five games vs. AQ conference opponents.
Oregon State 37-21
No. 47 Duke at No. 13 Florida State
Duke can relax after picking up that elusive sixth win and becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils are very much in the mix for the Coastal Division title, but their remaining schedule — starting with Saturday’s trip to FSU — is very difficult.
Florida State 38–20
No. 71 Kent State at No. 18 Rutgers
Former Rutgers assistant Darrell Hazell brings his Kent State Golden Flashes to town for homecoming. This will not, however, be easy for the Scarlet Knights. Kent State is 7–1 overall and has won three games on the road.
No. 19 Michigan at No. 27 Nebraska
Michigan snapped its four-game losing streak to Michigan State despite failing to score a touchdown. The Wolverines’ defense, which struggled in the first two weeks of the season, has given up an average of 230.6 yards in the last five games. Greg Mattison and his group will have their hands full against Nebraska. Holding the Huskers to 28 points should be the goal.
No. 102 Washington State at No. 20 Stanford
After playing two straight overtime games — beating Arizona and losing to Notre Dame — Stanford enjoyed a relatively stress-free 21–3 win over rival Cal in the Big Game. The Cardinal dominated this game at the line of scrimmage, outgaining Cal on the ground 252 to 3. Expect another easy win this week.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 73 Auburn
Auburn’s offense is bad. How bad? Well, the Tigers rank 119th in the nation in total yards (276.7) and have averaged only 229.0 yards against SEC opponents. Last week, in a 17–13 loss at Vanderbilt, Auburn managed 212 total yards. The week before, against Ole Miss, they had 213 yards.
Texas A&M 30–17
No. 24 Louisiana Tech at No. 122 New Mexico State
This is a colossal mismatch in the WAC. Louisiana Tech has scored 53 touchdowns in seven games vs. FCS competition. New Mexico State has scored 14 in six games.
Louisiana Tech 55–7
No. 45 Michigan State at No. 22 Wisconsin
After scoring less than 30 points in four of their first five games, the Badgers have scored 31, 38 and 38 points in their last three. Their three highest yardage totals of the season have also come in the last three games — 427 vs. Illinois, 645 vs. Purdue and 443 vs. Minnesota. Michigan State’s defense will be a bit tougher to penetrate, but the Badgers will score enough to win.
No. 26 UCLA at No. 33 Arizona State
I’m surprised the spread is so high between these seemingly evenly matched teams. UCLA is 5–2 and has only played one bad game, a 43–17 loss at California. The Bruins’ other loss was by seven points at home to undefeated Oregon State, and they have a nice win over Nebraska on their résumé.
No. 28 Texas at No. 97 Kansas
Charlie Weis has turned his offense over to Michael Cummings, a redshirt freshman who will get the start over Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist. He will be facing a Texas defense that has given up 48 points or more in its last three games.
No. 32 TCU at No. 30 Oklahoma State
TCU is known more for its defense, but the Horned Frogs are averaging 491.8 yards vs. Big 12 opponents this season. That’s more than West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas Tech (and four other teams). The Frogs’ defense, however, is giving up 387.8 yards in league play. Stopping Oklahoma State, which welcomes quarterback Wes Lunt back to the lineup, will be a challenge.
Oklahoma State 34–27
No. 31 Boise State at No. 112 Wyoming
The schedule hasn’t been too taxing, but Boise State has given up 17 points or less in all but one game this season. The Broncos lead the MWC in total defense and scoring defense.
Boise State 30–10
No. 34 Ohio at No. 109 Miami (Ohio)
Ohio, which is No. 4 in the BCS standings, has been outgained by an average of 64 yards in its three MAC games. This team does not deserve to be ranked.
No. 35 Toledo at No. 116 Buffalo
Toledo continues to roll. The Rockets improved to 7–1 last week with a win over previously unbeaten Cincinnati. Dating back to last season, Toledo has won 15 of its last 17 games. It will be 16 of 18 very soon.
Toledo 37, Buffalo 8
No. 37 NC State at No. 50 North Carolina
Larry Fedora will be a popular man in Chapel Hill if he can do something that Butch Davis failed to do in his time at North Carolina — beat NC State. The Wolfpack have won five straight in this series, four with Davis in charge and one with interim boss Everett Withers running the show. The streak is about to end.
North Carolina 28–27
No. 64 Iowa at No. 38 Northwestern
It’s been a strange season in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have one of the worst losses by any AQ conference team in the nation this season — at home to Central Michigan. Yet, they’ve also won at Michigan State. Last week, Iowa was dominated at home by Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 24–0 lead at the half and cruised to a 38–14 victory.
No. 42 Baylor at No. 41 Iowa State
How bad has Baylor been defensively in Big 12 games? Well, the Bears are giving up 613.7 points per game and a staggering 7.36 yards per play vs. conference foes.
Iowa State 47–41
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 43 ULM
South Alabama is fresh off its first win over an FBS team, a 37–34 double-overtime thriller at Florida Atlantic. The Jaguars’ winning streak will end at one.
No. 123 UMass at No. 48 Vanderbilt
UMass gained a total of 118 yards last week in a 24–0 loss at Bowling Green. The Minutemen had 33 yards passing on 34 attempts. It is very hard to be that bad.
No. 56 Ole Miss at No. 49 Arkansas
There is no doubt that Ole Miss is one of the most improved teams in the SEC. However, it must be noted that the Rebs have yet to beat a good team. Their four wins have come against Central Arkansas, UTEP (2–6), Tulane (1–6) and Auburn (1–6). So can this team take the next step and defeat a quality opponent?
No. 52 Utah State at No. 114 Texas-San Antonio
The Aggies bounced back from a 6–3 loss to BYU by beating San Jose State and New Mexico State by a combined score of 90–34. The beatings of WAC brethren will continue.
Utah State 44–13
No. 53 Northern Illinois at No. 81 Western Michigan
Northern Illinois and Toledo, both 4–0 in the league, are heading for a huge showdown in mid-November in DeKalb. The Huskies have won seven straight and are playing very well on both sides of the ball.
Northern Illinois 34–20
No. 54 Western Kentucky at No. 106 FIU
Western Kentucky blew a 28–7 second quarter lead last week and eventually lost in overtime to ULM 43–42. It was the Toppers’ first Sun Belt conference defeat since losing to Arkansas State last October.
Western Kentucky 24–21
No. 55 BYU at No. 58 Georgia Tech
Statistically, BYU has one of the top rushing defenses in the nation. But the Cougars were gashed last week by Notre Dame, which had two backs top 100 yards and ended up with 270 yards on 43 carries in a 17–14 Irish win. Georgia Tech’s option attack will provide another stiff test for BYU.
Georgia Tech 28–20
No. 59 Purdue at No. 65 Minnesota
These two teams are a combined 0–6 in the Big Ten. Minnesota is on its third starting quarterback of the season. Philip Nelson, a true freshman who enrolled at Minnesota last January, made his first start last week at Wisconsin. He completed 13-of-24 for 149 yards with two TDs and two interceptions in a 38–13 loss.
No. 60 California at No. 66 Utah
Losing 21–3 at home to your arch rival isn’t recommended for a coach (Jeff Tedford) whose job security is an issue. The Golden Bears are 3–5 overall and 2–3 in the league. They really need to pick up a win in Salt Lake City.
No. 77 Kentucky at No. 61 Missouri
Beating Kentucky this week is of paramount importance because it’s the last time Mizzou will be favored against an SEC foe. With trips to Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M looming, Gary Pinkel’s club could be staring at an 0–8 record in its maiden voyage through the league if it somehow fails to beat Kentucky.
No. 62 UCF at No. 80 Marshall
Marshall has quietly put together one of the nation’s top offenses — at least statistically. The Thundering Herd rank second in passing offense (390.0 ypg), fourth in total offense (568.4 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (43.1 ppg). That’s the good part. The bad? Marshall is giving upover 40 points per game.
No. 63 Maryland at No. 98 Boston College
Maryland lost its second quarterback to a torn ACL this season when Perry Hills went down last week against NC State. The Terps will now turn to true freshman Caleb Rowe or third-year sophomore Devin Burns.
Boston College 21–20
No. 67 Syracuse at No. 75 South Florida
South Florida’s disappointing 2012 season took another painful turn last week when the Bulls lost a fourth quarter lead to nationally ranked Louisville. USF is now 2–5 overall and 0–3 in the Big East. Syracuse played its most complete game of the season last week in a 40–10 win over UConn. The Orange, however, are 0–2 on the road in 2012 and have lost five straight on the road dating back to last season.
South Florida 24–20
No. 74 Temple at No. 68 Pittsburgh
Temple surprised the league by winning its first two games in its first season back in the Big East. Then, the Owls jumped on Rutgers last week and led 10–0 at the half. The fun stopped there, however. The Scarlet Knights stormed back and coasted to a 35–10 victory. Pittsburgh is 0–3 in the Big East, but the Panthers have already played two of the league’s best three teams, Cincinnati and Rutgers.
No. 69 Fresno State at No. 95 New Mexico
New Mexico, which has switched to an option offense under new coach Bob Davie, is the only team in the nation that has not completed a pass that has gone for 40 yards or more. The Lobos do, however, have seven rushing plays of 40 yards or more, which ranks second nationally.
Fresno State 31–23
No. 103 UNLV at No. 70 San Diego State
San Diego State had its biggest win of the year last week, rallying to beat Nevada 39–38 in overtime. With Ryan Katz out with an injury (and lost for the season), Adam Dingwell stepped in and threw for 177 yards with three touchdowns and no picks.
San Diego State 30–14
No. 72 Ball State at No. 115 Army
Rich Ellerson’s fourth season at Army isn’t going well. The Black Knights are 1–6 (though the one win came vs. Boston College) and all but one of their losses has been by 10 points or more. Ball State should roll.
Ball State 44–20
No. 87 Navy at No. 78 East Carolina
Navy has won three straight, the last two with true freshman Keenan Reynolds starting at quarterback. East Carolina is 4–1 in C-USA but will have a tough time winning its division. The Pirates trail UCF by one game in the loss column and lost to the Knights 40–20 earlier this month.
East Carolina 34–31
No. 104 Texas State at No. 79 San Jose State
Assuming San Jose State takes care of business this weekend, Mike MacIntyre can claim back-to-back wins over Larry Coker (won a national title at Miami) and Dennis Franchione (former coach at TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M).
San Jose State 44–17
No. 83 Troy at No. 124 FAU
FAU has lost six straight games since edging Wagner 7–3 in the opener. The latest loss was troubling — 37–34 at FBS newcomer South Alabama. The Carl Pelini era is off to a rough start.
No. 96 North Texas at No. 85 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee played well in Starkville for a half last week before being overwhelmed by Mississippi State in the final two quarters. The Blue Raiders miss Bennie Cunningham (torn ACL), but this is still a good offense.
Middle Tennessee 34–27
No. 88 Indiana at No. 89 Illinois
Indiana has lost its last three games (vs. Michigan State, Ohio State and Navy) by a total of eight points. Illinois has lost its last four games (Louisiana Tech, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan) by a total of 118 points.
No. 117 Memphis at No. 90 SMU
One week after losing to previously winless Tulane 27–26, SMU beat Houston 72–42 (thanks to nine Cougar turnovers). Go figure.
No. 99 UTEP at No. 92 Houston
Just when it appeared that Houston was getting its act together, the Cougars turn the ball over nine times and give up 72 points to SMU. When this team takes care of the ball — which isn’t often — it is capable of scoring points.
No. 113 Eastern Michigan at No. 93 Bowling Green
Bowling Green gave up a total of 118 yards in a 24–0 win at UMass last week. The Falcons have not allowed more than 12 points in a game since losing at Virginia Tech 37–0 in Week 4.
Bowling Green 27–12
No. 100 UAB at No. 110 Tulane
Tulane is showing improvement under first-year coach Curtis Johnson. The Green Wave broke through with their first win two weeks ago against SMU and then lost at UTEP 24–20 last week. Beating UAB, however, will be tough. The Blazers are 1–6 but have played relatively well against a tough schedule.
No. 108 Southern Miss at No. 105 Rice
Is it possible that Southern Miss, a program that has enjoyed 18 straight winning seasons, could go winless in 2012? The Golden Eagles have five games remaining: at Rice, UAB, at SMU, UTEP, at Memphis. My guess is that USM finds a way to win at least one game.
No. 111 Akron at No. 107 Central Michigan
Terry Bowden is still looking for his first win vs. an FBS opponent in his first season as the boss at Akron. Central Michigan has lost four straight since its stunning win at Iowa.
Central Michigan 21–20
No. 118 Hawaii at No. 120 Colorado State
These two programs have enjoyed some pockets of big-time success over the past two decades. Now, however, they are among the two worst teams in the nation.
Colorado State 24–16
Last week: 44–11
The de facto SEC East title game between Florida and Georgia in Jacksonville highlights the Week 9 schedule in the SEC. There is also a big game in the SEC West as a pair of 7–0 teams, Alabama and Mississippi State, battle in Tuscaloosa. There’s also an intriguing game in Fayetteville. Ole Miss is vastly improved, but are the Rebels good enough to beat Arkansas, which has won two straight, at Razorback Stadium?
Other Week 9 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 9
1. Can Mississippi State make Alabama sweat?
It’s safe to say that Alabama hasn’t played under duress at any point this season. Bama’s seven wins have come by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points. The Crimson Tide have only trailed once — by one point to Ole Miss for 15 seconds — and they have never led by less than 13 points at any time in the second half. So what happens if Nick Saban’s club is forced to sweat? Will this team, which has operated with such efficiency so far this season, show signs of weakness? It’s doubtful, but Mississippi State would sure love to find out. The Bulldogs are 7–0 overall and 3–0 in the SEC yet head to Tuscaloosa as a 23-point underdog. “Everyone on their roster is a 4- or 5-star prospect,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said earlier this week. “They get those guys in position to make plays and have a real physical team. They don’t make many mistakes and do not turn the ball over. … It should be a great challenge for our guys as we will have to play our best game of the year.”
2. Can AJ McCarron play his way into the Heisman Trophy race?
Kansas State’s Collin Klein is the clear favorite, for now, in the evolving race for the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is also getting significant buzz. But we can’t forget about AJ McCarron, the starting quarterback on the nation’s No. 1 team. McCarron’s raw numbers won’t wow you — he ranks 64th in the nation in passing yards per game (210.9) and tied for 12th in touchdown passes (16) — but he leads the nation in passing efficiency thanks to his 68.9 completion percentage and 16-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio. The nation is now starting to realize what most savvy SEC fans have known since the middle of last season — McCarron is far more than the “game-manager” of the powerful Alabama offense. He’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the game.
3. Can Tyler Bray play well against a good team?
Tyler Bray is regarded as one of the most talented quarterbacks in the SEC. That talent, however, hasn’t translated to success against the better teams in the league. Bray, a strong-armed junior, has feasted on inferior competition throughout his career. This season, in three games vs. non-conference opponents, Bray has a quarterback rating of 183.4 (third in the league) and has averaged 348.0 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and one interception. In league play, however, those numbers plummet. His quarterback rating vs. SEC foes is 106.3 (11th in the league), and he has averaged 217.5 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. For his career, he has nine games with at least 300 yards passing. Only two were against SEC foes, Ole Miss and Kentucky in 2010. Bray is too talented, and he has too many weapons — including two likely first-round draft picks at wide receiver — to struggle so much against quality competition.
4. Can South Carolina regain its focus?
Two weeks ago, South Carolina fans were dreaming of a national title. Now, after losses at LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks are all but eliminated from the SEC East title chase. Steve Spurrier’s challenge is to keep his team engaged for the stretch run, which begins this week with a visit from Tennessee. The Volunteers are struggling but have more than enough talent, especially on offense, to hang with Carolina in Columbia. “They’re going to come in here and throw it around probably as well as anybody we’ve played,” Spurrier said earlier this week. “They’ve got a good running game also. They've made yards against everybody they’ve played.” The Gamecocks will be seeking their third straight win against Tennessee. Since joining the SEC in 1991, Carolina has yet to win three in a row against any of its chief rivals in the SEC East — Tennessee, Florida and Georgia.
5. Can Ole Miss beat a good team?
There is no doubt that Ole Miss is one of the most improved teams in the league. The Rebels have made significant progress on both sides of the ball under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. Through seven games last year, Ole Miss ranked 116th in the nation in total offense (268.7 ypg) and 110th in total defense (442.1 ypg). This year, they rank 38th in offense (440.7 ypg) and 40th in defense (356.0 ypg). That’s impressive improvement. However, it must be noted that the Rebs have yet to beat a good team. Their four wins have come against Central Arkansas, UTEP (2–6), Tulane (1–6) and Auburn (1–6). So can this team take the next step and defeat a quality opponent? (And yes, I am considering Arkansas, at home, to be a quality opponent.)
6. Can Georgia’s defense bounce back?
Thanks in part to South Carolina’s recent slide, Georgia controls its own destiny in the SEC East. The Dawgs’ biggest hurdle is this week against Florida in Jacksonville. After that, they host Ole Miss and travel to Auburn, games in which they will be the heavy favorite. That all sounds good, but is this Georgia team good enough on defense to take advantage of the situation? Last year, in the second season of Todd Grantham’s 3–4 scheme, the Bulldogs fielded one of the elite defenses in the nation. They ranked fifth in total defense (277.2 ypg) and 23rd in scoring defense (20.6 ppg). With 10 starters back, expectations were high for this unit in 2012. But through seven games, Georgia ranks 47th nationally in total defense (367.4 ypg) and 49th in scoring defense (24.1 ppg). Over their last three games, the Dawgs have given up a total of 105 points — yet still managed to win two of those games. Last week, in a too-close-for-comfort win against Kentucky, Georgia gave up 206 yards rushing to a UK offense that had combined to run for 150 yards in its previous two games. That’s not a good sign with Florida up next. The Gators are far from elite on offense, but they do run the ball effectively, utilizing both the tailback (Mike Gillislee) and the quarterback (Jeff Driskel). Georgia has the weapons to beat Florida; it’s up to the defense to do its part.
7. What will Auburn do at quarterback?
Breaking news: Auburn’s offense is bad. How bad? Well, the Tigers rank 119th in the nation in total yards (276.7) and have averaged only 229.0 yards against SEC opponents. Last week, in a 17–13 loss at Vanderbilt, Auburn managed 212 total yards. The week before, against Ole Miss, they had 213 yards. It’s no secret that the primary area of concern has been the quarterback position. Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley, who have taken the majority of the snaps, have a combined three touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Moseley, who replaced Frazier as the starter prior to the Ole Miss game, has decent stats (38-of-59 for 373 yards in two games), but the offense has three total touchdowns since he was elevated to the No. 1 position. Don’t be surprised if Jonathan Wallace takes on a larger role in the coming weeks. A true freshman who has seen action in the past five games in the Wildcat package, Wallace is a dynamic athlete who might be able to ignite the Auburn attack. Last week, he completed his first career pass, a quick out that went for 11 yards. The Tigers clearly aren’t threatening defenses with their downfield passing game; it might be time to lean on Wallace and tailbacks Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb.
8. Will Missouri win its first SEC game?
Missouri’s quest for its first SEC win should come to an end this Saturday with Kentucky coming to town. The Tigers likely will be without quarterback James Franklin for one more week, but they are still nearly a two touchdown favorite to beat UK. Missouri’s 0–4 start in its new league shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Sure, losing to Vanderbilt wasn’t exactly what the Tiger faithful had in mind, but the three other losses have been against Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Beating Kentucky this week is of paramount importance because it’s the last time Mizzou will be favored against an SEC foe. With trips to Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M looming, Gary Pinkel’s club could be staring at an 0–8 record in its maiden voyage through the league if it somehow fails to beat Kentucky.
9. Will Patrick Towles return for Kentucky?
Kentucky’s disappointing 2012 season received a jolt of electricity when Patrick Towles made his collegiate debut in the first quarter against Mississippi State on Oct. 6. Towles, a true freshman from Fort Thomas, Ky., drove the Cats 80 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown in his first drive. His presence in the lineup energized Commonwealth Stadium, giving the Wildcat faithful a reason to get excited. The fun didn’t last long. Towles was sidelined in the second quarter with a high ankle sprain that was feared, at the time, to be potentially season-ending. Towles, however, returned to practice this week and will play this week at Missouri — assuming he is able to go through all the necessary drills this week. The plan, if Towles is able to go, is to play both quarterbacks — Towles and fellow true freshman Jalen Whitlow. Senior Morgan Newton, who went 1-of-6 for four yards against Georgia last week, is also available.
10. Can Florida keep winning without a downfield passing attack?
Florida is one of the surprise teams in the nation in 2012. The Gators are well-positioned to compete for a national title just one year after stumbling through the school’s first losing SEC season since 1986. Will Muschamp’s team is getting it done with its defense and running game. At some point this season, however, the Gators must prove they can make plays in the passing game. This isn’t to say they can’t do it — they just haven’t done it yet. Consider the following: Florida ranks last in the SEC in passing plays of 10 yards or more (35) and last in passing plays of 20 yards or more (13). In their last three games, the Gators have completed only two passes that went for 20 yards or more — a 39-yarder to tight end Jordan Reed vs. South Carolina and a 21-yarder to Quinton Dunbar vs. Vanderbilt. This limited offensive attack has served Florida well to this point, but can this team win a national championship without the threat of a deep ball? Stay tuned.
|SEC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Kentucky (+13.5) at Missouri
Tennessee (+14) at S. Carolina
|S. Carolina 35-21||
South Carolina 34-20
S. Carolina 37-20
|S. Carolina 31-20|
|Ole Miss (+5) at Arkansas||Arkansas 28-14||
|Florida (-6.5) at Georgia||Florida 27-13||
Texas A&M (-14) at Auburn
|Texas A&M 38-7||
Texas A&M 45-17
Texas A&M 34-17
|Texas A&M 30-17|
UMass (+33) at Vanderbilt
Mississippi St. (-23.5) at Alabama
You’ve heard the cliché “Big time players make big-time plays in big-time games.” That’s true. But sometimes mediocre players make big-time plays in big-time games.
Here’s a list of 10 unlikely World Series heroes.
Kurt Bevacqua, San Diego Padres, 1984
A career journeyman who batted .200 with one home run and nine RBIs the during the 1984 season, Bevacqua had his finest moment as a major leaguer in the ‘84 World Series. With the Padres trailing 3–2 in the fifth inning of Game 2, Bevacqua drilled a 3-run home run off Dan Petry of the Tigers to give his team a 5–3 lead that would stand — and would be San Diego’s only win of the Series. Bevacqua hit .412 with two home runs and four RBIs in 17 at bats in the 1984 World Series, and he will forever be known for his clutch long ball in Game 2.
Donn Clendenon, New York Mets, 1969
The Mets acquired Clendenon from the Montreal Expos on June 15 to play some first base and provide a veteran presence. He did that — and more. Appearing in four games (of a five-series), Clendenon hit .357 with three home runs and four RBIs en route to earning MVP honors for the Amazin’ Mets. His three home runs set a record for a five-game series that was matched by Ryan Howard of the Phillies in 2008. Clendenon retired in 1972 after an 11-year career that included stops in Pittsburgh, Montreal, New York and St. Louis.
Brian Doyle, New York Yankees, 1984
He only had 199 career at bats in four major league seasons, but Doyle will always be remembered by every Yankee fan for his heroics in the ’78 Series. Filling in for injured second baseman Willie Randolph, Doyle hit .438 with seven hits and four runs scored to help the Yankees to their second straight World Series crown. Doyle retired in 1981 after one season with the Oakland A’s. He hit .161 in the big leagues.
David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals, 2011
Freese was a part-timer in his second full season in the big leagues when the 2011 postseason began. He was a St. Louis legend and a World Series MVP by the time it ended. Freese came up big so many times in the memorable seven-game series, but will be best remembered for his unbelievably clutch play in Game 6. First, with the Cardinals facing elimination down by one run in the bottom of the ninth, Freese tied the game with a two-out, two-strike triple to right field. Two innings later, Freese opened up the bottom of the 11th with a home run that forced a Game 7. A native of the St. Louis area who grew up a Cardinals fan, Freese hit .348 with seven RBIs and four runs scored in the ’11 World Series.
Billy Hatcher, Cincinnati Reds, 1990
Hatcher enjoyed a solid 12-year career with seven different teams, but he never hit higher than .296 or more than 11 home runs in a single season. He picked a good time to get hot, however. Hatcher set two World Series records — highest batting average (.750) and most consecutive hits (seven) — to power the Reds past the heavily favored Oakland A’s in a four-game sweep. Hatcher hit four doubles, scored six runs and had two RBIs in the only World Series appearance of his career.
Jim Leyritz, New York Yankees, 1996
The up-and-coming Yankees were searching for their first World Series title in 18 years. But it didn’t look promising. The Braves, already up two games to one in the series, held a 6–0 lead heading into the sixth inning of Game 4. The Yanks chipped away with three runs in the top of the sixth and then tied the game in the eighth when Leyritz, a backup catcher, hit a 3-run pinch-hit blast over the left field wall. The Yankees went on to win the game in the 10th inning and then wrapped up the World Series title with wins in Game 5 and Game 6, both by one run.
Edgar Renteria, Florida Marlins, 1997
Renteria went on to have a brilliant 16-year career, but in 1997 the Colombian-born shortstop was in his second season in the bigs. The Marlins and Indians traded wins through the first six games of the series, setting up a Game 7 for the ages. The Marlins tied the score with a run in the bottom of the ninth and then captured their first World Series title in the bottom of the 11th when Renteria hit a single up the middle with the bases loaded and two outs. It was the ninth hit of the series for Renteria, who went on to hit .333 in 16 World Series games in his career.
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies, 2008
Ruiz was a part-time catcher who hit .219 with four home runs for the Phillies in 2008. His bat came alive in the World Series, however. Ruiz hit .375 with one home run and three RBIs to help the Phillies get past the Tampa Bay Rays in a five-game series. Ruiz did the most damage in the Phils’ win in Game 3. First, he gave his team the lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, then he delivered the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth, a walk-off infield hit that scored Eric Bruntlett.
Gene Tenace, Oakland A’s, 1972
Tenace was the ultimate utility man for the A’s in 1972, appearing in 82 games at five different positions. But in the World Series, Tenace was thrust into a prominent role due to an injury to starting right fielder Reggie Jackson. Tenace delivered — in a big way. He earned World Series MVP honors after hitting .348 with four home runs (after hitting only five during the regular season) and driving in nine runs (no other player on his team had more than one RBI). Tenace was a regular on Oakland’s next two championship teams — though he only hit a combined .178 in the 1973 and ‘74 World Series — but was just a part-timer who stepped up when it mattered most in 1972.
Tony Womack, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001
The 2001 World Series is remembered by most for Mariano Rivera’s blown save in Game 7, but Diamondback fans and will never forget Womack’s role in the comeback victory. With the D-Backs trailing 2–1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Womack smacked a game-tying double to right field. Two batters later, Luis Gonzalez hit a soft line drive past a drawn-in infield to give the Diamondbacks the Game 7 victory. Womack, who played 13 seasons in the bigs, hit .250 with three RBIs in the 2001 series.
Alabama and Florida cemented their status as the top two teams in the league. The Crimson Tide cruised past Tennessee in Knoxville, while the Gators rolled past South Carolina with ease in Gainesville. On the other end of the SEC food chain, Auburn dropped to 0–5 in the league with a 17-13 loss at Vanderbilt.
Post-Week 8 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. A.J. McCarron, Alabama — The nation is now starting to realize that McCarron is more than the “game-manager” of the powerful Alabama offense. The junior leads the nation in passing efficiency thanks to his 68.9 completion percentage and 16-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio.
2. Eddie Lacy/T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — Yes, it’s a cop out to have two guys listed for the No. 2 spot for Offensive Player of the Year honors, but Lacy and Yeldon have both been terrific sharing the role of featured back in the Alabama attack. Lacy leads the team in rushing (570 yards) and rushing touchdowns (seven); Yeldon isn’t far behind (565 yards and six TDs) and has a better yards-per-carry average (6.8 to 5.8).
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel struggled a bit in A&M’s loss to LSU last weekend, but his body of work is still outstanding. He is second in the SEC in rushing (100.4 ypg) and has thrown for 1,956 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Manziel will have to put up some big numbers against a quality SEC defense to remain in the hunt for Player of the Year honors.
Post-Week 8 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — South Carolina lost at Florida 44–11, but the Gamecocks’ defense only gave up 183 total yards. Clowney had five tackles, including two for a loss, and now has a team-high 14 tackles for a loss (including 7.5 sacks).
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones did not play in Georgia’s win vs. Kentucky due to an injured ankle. In five games, the outside linebacker has 36 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss (with 5.5 sacks).
3. Kevin Minter, LSU — Minter continued his outstanding season with 12 tackles, two quarterback hurries and an interception in the Tigers’ 24¬–19 win at Texas A&M. Minter, a junior middle linebacker, has 75 tackles and three sacks for the season.
Post-Week 8 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators improved to 7–0 overall and 6–0 in the SEC with a 44–11 win over South Carolina. Last year, Florida won seven games for the entire season.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama — Alabama is a team without a weakness. The defense, which had to replace several key contributors from last season, is ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.
3. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State — Much has been made about the Bulldogs’ relatively soft schedule (and rightfully so), but credit Mullen and Mississippi State for taking care of business — and doing so in impressive fashion. State is 7–0 and heads to Tuscaloosa this weekend for an enormous showdown with the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Post-Week 8 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (7–0, 4-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 7 result: Beat Tennessee 44-13
Oregon, Florida and Kansas State have all looked very good this season, but Alabama is still the nation’s finest team. The Crimson Tide pounded Tennessee 44–13 in Knoxville with a balanced offensive attack (307 yards passing, 231 rushing) and a dominating defense that held the Vols to a season-low 281 total yards. AJ McCarron was nearly flawless at quarterback, completing 17-of-22 for 307 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy combined to run for 209 yards on 33 carries. Alabama’s seven wins have come by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points.
Next week: Mississippi State
2. Florida (7–0, 6–0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 7 result: Beat South Carolina 44–11
Who needs yards? Not Florida. The Gators put up 44 points despite gaining only 183 total yards in a statement win over SEC East rival South Carolina in Gainesville. Florida took advantage of four Gamecock turnovers to improve to 6–0 in the SEC for the first time since 2009. The Gators had two scoring drives of two yards or less in the first half— one set up by a Connor Shaw fumble (on the first play of the game) and the other by a fumble by Ace Sanders on a kick-off return. The Florida defense, which has given up 20 points or less in every game, surrendered only 191 yards and did not allow a touchdown. Next week, Florida can wrap up the SEC East with a win over Georgia in Jacksonville.
Next week: vs. Georgia
3. LSU (7–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 7 result: Beat Texas A&M 24–19
LSU proved that an elite defense can stop one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Texas A&M did pick up 410 total yards — the most by any team vs. LSU this season — but the Aggies committed five turnovers and were held to 19 points, their lowest total since a 20–17 season-opening loss to Florida. The Tigers trailed 12–0 midway through the second quarter but scored the next 24 points to seize control. LSU ran the ball well — Jeremy Hill led the way with 127 yards on 18 carries — but Zach Mettenberger continues to struggle at quarterback. The junior completed 11-of-29 passes for 97 yards, which equates to a dismal 3.3 yards per attempt.
Next week: Bye
4. South Carolina (6–2, 4–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 7 result: Lost to Florida 44–11
Two weeks ago, South Carolina fans were dreaming of a national title. Now, after losses at LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks are all but eliminated from the SEC East title chase. Carolina quickly fell behind 7–0 thanks to a Connor Shaw fumble on the first play of the game. It didn’t get any better. The Gamecocks committed three more turnovers, two of which led to Florida TD drives of 11 yards or fewer. Shaw was ineffective at quarterback — he completed 9-of-20 for 72 yards — and was benched in the second half in favor of Dylan Thompson. “It was embarrassing for us — very embarrassing to lose,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said after the game. “We’ve got to reevaluate a lot of our personnel and get players out there who really want to play for South Carolina. Two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought this. We had a bad one today. LSU was bad (last week). This one was worse. We’ve got to regroup somehow.”
Next week: Tennessee
5. Georgia (6–1, 4–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 7 result: Beat Kentucky 29–24
A win is a win — especially on the road in the SEC — but Mark Richt can’t be too pleased with his team’s play in the 29–24 victory in Lexington. Quarterback Aaron Murray was outstanding, completing 30-of-38 for 427 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Not much else went well for the Bulldogs. Georgia’s three top tailbacks combined for only 93 yards on 25 carries against a Kentucky team that entered the game ranked 12th in the SEC in rushing defense. And the Georgia defense gave up 206 yards rushing to a UK offense that combined to run for 150 yards in its previous two games. Now for the positives: Georgia can move into the driver’s seat in the SEC East with a win next week vs. Florida in Jacksonville.
Next week: vs. Florida
6. Mississippi State (7–0, 3–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 7 result: Beat Middle Tennessee State 45–3
It was a struggle for a half, but Mississippi State scored 35 unanswered points in the final two quarters to beat a solid Middle Tennessee team 45–3 in Starkville. Quarterback Tyler Russell continues to shine for the Bulldogs. He completed 17-of-21 passes for 191 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. In the last three games, Russell has completed 65 percent of his attempts with seven touchdowns and no picks. Junior tailback LaDarius Perkins chipped in with 125 yards rushing on 20 carries; he has topped the 100-yard mark four times in the last five games. Now, the 7–0 Bulldogs head to Tuscaloosa in one of the biggest games in school history.
Next week: at Alabama
7. Texas A&M (5–2, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 7 result: Lost to LSU 24–19
The Aggies did a lot of good things against an elite opponent, but you can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel threw for 276 yards — that was the good news. The bad news? He threw three interceptions and was held to a season low 27 yards rushing. Manziel did not throw a pick in his first four games but has been intercepted six times in the last three games. The Texas A&M defense, which had allowed an average of 531.3 yards in its previous three games, held LSU to 316 yards, including less than 100 through the air.
Next week: at Auburn
8. Tennessee (3–4, 0–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 7 result: Lost to Alabama 44–13
Tennessee needed its best players to play well to make No. 1 Alabama sweat. It didn’t happen. Quarterback Tyler Bray completed only 13-of-27 passes for 184 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had only 25 yards from scrimmage on three offensive touches. Justin Hunter had a nice game (four catches for 70 yards), but it wasn’t nearly enough. Tennessee was outgained 539 to 282 en route to its 11th loss in the past 12 SEC games. The Vols’ schedule eases up considerably after next week’s trip to South Carolina, but will a run of victories against non-top-25 teams be enough to save Derek Dooley’s job?
Next week: at South Carolina
9. Vanderbilt (3–4, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 7 result: Beat Auburn 17–14
Vanderbilt outgained Auburn 376 to 224 yet needed a late defensive stand to secure the 17–14 win in Nashville. Tailback Zac Stacy led the Commodores’ offense with 163 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. Stacy, a senior from Birmingham who was not recruited by Auburn, is now Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher with 2,670 career yards. The Commodores’ defense, now ranked No. 27 in the nation, did not allow a drive longer than 52 yards and only gave up one touchdown. Vanderbilt has scored 19 points or less in all five SEC games but is 2–3 in league play.
Next week: UMass
10. Arkansas (3–4, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 7 Result: Bye
The Razorbacks appear to be playing better of late, but their two recent SEC wins have come against the two worst teams in the league — Auburn and Kentucky. The Hogs host improved Ole Miss and Tulsa (currently 7–1) in the next weeks before a tough three-game stretch that includes road trips to South Carolina and Mississippi State and a home date with LSU.
Next week: Ole Miss
11. Ole Miss (4–3, 1–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 7 result: Bye
Ole Miss needs only two wins to become bowl-eligible, but the Rebels’ remaining schedule is very difficult — road games at Arkansas, Georgia and LSU and home games vs. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Not sure there are two wins in that group.
Next week: at Arkansas
12. Missouri (3–4, 0–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 7 result: Bye
The Tigers have a great opportunity to pick up their first SEC win with Kentucky coming to town next week. Missouri expects to have quarterback James Franklin back in the lineup.
Next week: Kentucky
13. Auburn (1–6, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 7 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 17–13
Auburn’s nightmare season took another bad turn Saturday afternoon. The Tigers dropped to 0–5 in the SEC with a four-point loss at Vanderbilt. Auburn managed only 212 yards of offense and now has 216 yards or fewer in four of its five league games. Clint Moseley got his second start of the season at quarterback and completed 14-of-20 for 98 yards. Jonathan Wallace also saw time, but the Wildcat specialist had a net of minus-5 yards rushing on three carries. Auburn announced before the game that tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is out for the season with a hip injury.
Next week: Texas A&M
14. Kentucky (1–7, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 7 result: Lost to Georgia 29–24
It was still a loss, but the Wildcats played arguably their finest game of the 2012 season. Leaning on a surprisingly effective running game, Kentucky jumped on Georgia early and hung with the Bulldogs until the final minutes of the game. The Cats’ top two tailbacks, Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders, combined to rush for 159 yards on 30 carries to lead a UK ground attack that netted 206 yards. Georgia, meanwhile, managed only 77 yards on the ground, but was bailed out by an outstanding performance from quarterback Aaron Murray (427 yards, four TDs). Kentucky’s 24 points were a season-high vs. an AQ conference opponent.
Next week: at Missouri